Houston Rockets superstar James Harden scored 37 points in leading his team to a 109-96 win over the Los Angeles Clippers in an NBA preseason exhibition tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Playing in front of a near-capacity crowd, Harden tried to single-handedly make up for the on-court absence of the other three superstars billed for the matchup — his new Rockets teammate Russell Westbrook and the Clippers’ pair of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Those three watched from their teams’ benches as they rested for the regular season, when the two teams are expected to vie for a high seed in the Western Conference.
Harden, the 2018 NBA MVP and 2018-19 league scoring champ, played 28 minutes spanning the first three quarters. He shot 8-for-22 from the field but sank 17 of 20 of his free-throw attempts, while adding seven assists and seven rebounds.
It was the third straight year of NBA action in Honolulu, and the first matchup between two NBA teams since the Clippers took on the Toronto Raptors for two games in 2017. The Clippers are in town for preseason camp and will play a second exhibition at 1 p.m. Sunday against the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association.
The Rockets, playing four of their five regular starters, jumped out to a quick lead. Clippers guard Lou Williams tied it on a 3 in the second quarter, but it was all Rockets from there. They led by 17 points at halftime and 24 after three quarters.
Harden thrilled the crowd with his step-back shots and playmaking. He sank a four-point play and even unleashed his new move, a one-legged 3-pointer, from a corner in the third quarter; it didn’t go in, but he drew a foul on the play.
Montrezl Harrell was one of five Clippers in double figures with a team-high 17 points.