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Harden's 45 lead Rockets in 127-113 win over Celtics

HOUSTON (AP) James Harden thinks he should be in the MVP discussion again this season and showed why on Thursday night.

Harden had 45 points and six assists, Clint Capela added 24 points and 18 rebounds, and the Houston Rockets beat the Boston Celtics 127-113 for their eighth win in nine games.

''Of course, I should be in that conversation,'' Harden, the reigning MVP, said. ''I received a lot of hate, but it won't stop me from going out there and killing it every single night and being the dog that I am. You can name a few other people that can be in that conversation, but realistically, it's coming back.''

Harden, who was playing on a bruised left calf, had 17 points in the first quarter and finished 11 of 26 from the field, including 9 of 18 on 3-pointers.

''You take those shots, you're confident in those shots and those shots will go in,'' Harden said. ''Sometimes they might not go in, but mostly, they'll go in. I just have to keep going, keep working.''

Eric Gordon scored 20 points for Houston, which shot 48 percent while improving to a season-high four games above .500. Houston finished 18 of 45 on 3-pointers.

''He has a mastery of the game and a control and an ease of which he plays,'' Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said of Harden. ''It's fun to watch.''

Harden has scored at least 30 points in eight straight games, the longest such streak since Russell Westbrook had eight straight 30-point games in November 2016. Harden has scored at least 35 points in six straight games, the longest streak since Carmelo Anthony had six straight in April 2013.

''I think what James is doing is really special because he's really carrying us right now,'' Gerald Green said. ''Not only is he scoring, he's leading us.''

Kyrie Irving had 23 points and 11 assists, Marcus Morris added 19 points before being ejected midway through the fourth quarter, and Jaylen Brown had 18 points off the bench for Boston, which shot 47 percent but was outrebounded 54-38.

''The first 18 minutes and then the last 24 minutes, the glass killed us,'' Boston coach Brad Stevens said. ''I thought the restricted area generally on both sides of the floor, our finishing and our lack of rebounding were separators.''

The Rockets used a 14-4 run to end the third and start the fourth to open up a 103-90 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by Green with 9 minutes remaining. Boston got no closer than 10 the rest of the way.

''We just weren't covering up for one another consistently enough,'' Irving said. ''That's really what it comes down to.''

Houston opened up a 41-24 advantage a minute into the second on 3-pointer by Danuel House Jr. Trailing 50-33, Boston used a 22-7 run to end the half, aided by three technical fouls against the Rockets in barely a minute, to cut the lead to 57-55 on Marcus Smart's 3-pointer. Irving had seven in the run.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Aron Baynes (broken finger) missed his fourth straight game. ... Robert Williams missed the game with a sore left leg. .. Al Horford had 15 points, and Smart scored 11.

Rockets: James Ennis missed his eighth straight game with a strained right hamstring, but D'Antoni said he was ''close'' to returning. ... Green and Austin Rivers each scored 10 points.

TECHNICAL FOULS

Within a 61-second span of the second quarter, Chris Paul, who is out with a left hamstring strain but was sitting on Houston's bench, D'Antoni and Capela were all called for technical fouls. Capela's, which was the last with 2:28 remaining, was called for hanging on the rim following a dunk.

Morris was called for a technical foul with 9 minutes left in the third after taking the ball to the other end of the court after being called for a foul. Morris was called for his second technical foul with 4:38 left in the fourth after arguing an offensive foul. Smart was called for a technical foul with 24 seconds remaining.

UP NEXT

Celtics: Visit Memphis on Saturday night.

Rockets: Visit New Orleans on Saturday night.

Copyright 2018 by AP. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of AP is strictly prohibited.

Key Players
K. Irving
11 PG
J. Harden
13 SG
36.7 Min. Per Game 36.7
32.3 Pts. Per Game 32.3
8.4 Ast. Per Game 8.4
5.7 Reb. Per Game 5.7
48.7 Field Goal % 44.4
48.4 Three Point % 44.6
84.9 Free Throw % 84.9
+ 2 Jaylen Brown made turnaround jump shot 0:18
+ 1 James Harden made free throw 0:24
  Unsportsmanlike technical foul 0:24
+ 1 Clint Capela made 2nd of 2 free throws 0:29
+ 1 Clint Capela made 1st of 2 free throws 0:29
  Personal foul on Gordon Hayward 0:29
  Defensive rebound by Clint Capela 0:31
  Gordon Hayward missed 3-pt. jump shot 0:35
+ 1 James Harden made 3rd of 3 free throws 0:38
+ 1 James Harden made 2nd of 3 free throws 0:38
+ 1 James Harden made 1st of 3 free throws 0:38
Team Stats
Points 113 127
Field Goals 38-81 (46.9%) 41-86 (47.7%)
3-Pointers 12-31 (38.7%) 18-45 (40.0%)
Free Throws 25-31 (80.6%) 27-35 (77.1%)
Total Rebounds 44 58
Offensive 7 16
Defensive 31 38
Team 6 4
Assists 28 17
Steals 8 4
Blocks 3 4
Turnovers 11 12
Fouls 22 22
Technicals 3 4
23 PTS, 5 REB, 11 AST
45 PTS, 2 REB, 6 AST
1234T
away team logo Celtics 20-14 24313127113
home team logo Rockets 19-15 35223535127
Team Stats
away team logo Celtics 20-14 112.7 PPG 44.6 RPG 26.4 APG
home team logo Rockets 19-15 113.2 PPG 41.5 RPG 21.1 APG
Key Players
K. Irving PG 23.9 PPG 5.1 RPG 7.0 APG 49.2 FG%
J. Harden SG 36.1 PPG 6.5 RPG 7.7 APG 43.6 FG%
Top Scorers
K. Irving PG 23 PTS 5 REB 11 AST
J. Harden SG 45 PTS 2 REB 6 AST
46.9 FG% 47.7
38.7 3PT FG% 40.0
80.6 FT% 77.1
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
K. Irving 23 5 11 7/13 2/6 7/7 3 35 1 1 1 0 5 +6 51
M. Morris 19 6 2 6/11 3/5 4/4 3 28 1 1 2 0 6 +2 29
A. Horford 15 4 4 7/12 1/1 0/0 2 24 1 0 3 2 2 +10 25
M. Smart 11 2 3 4/10 1/5 2/4 3 31 1 0 3 0 2 +4 17
J. Tatum 4 3 2 2/7 0/1 0/0 3 28 1 0 1 0 3 -12 11
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
K. Irving 23 5 11 7/13 2/6 7/7 3 35 1 1 1 0 5 +6 51
M. Morris 19 6 2 6/11 3/5 4/4 3 28 1 1 2 0 6 +2 29
A. Horford 15 4 4 7/12 1/1 0/0 2 24 1 0 3 2 2 +10 25
M. Smart 11 2 3 4/10 1/5 2/4 3 31 1 0 3 0 2 +4 17
J. Tatum 4 3 2 2/7 0/1 0/0 3 28 1 0 1 0 3 -12 11
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
J. Brown 18 5 0 7/12 1/4 3/5 2 24 0 0 0 0 5 -22 23
G. Hayward 9 6 5 2/5 2/4 3/3 2 24 1 0 1 1 5 -19 25
D. Theis 6 4 0 0/3 0/0 6/8 3 18 1 1 0 3 1 -27 12
T. Rozier 5 2 1 2/6 1/4 0/0 0 15 0 0 0 1 1 -16 9
S. Ojeleye 3 0 0 1/1 1/1 0/0 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 +1 3
G. Yabusele 0 1 0 0/1 0/0 0/0 0 4 1 0 0 0 1 +3 2
B. Wanamaker - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A. Baynes - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Bird - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
P. Dozier - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
R. Williams - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
W. Lemon Jr. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 113 38 28 38/81 12/31 25/31 22 235 8 3 11 7 31 -70 207
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
J. Harden 45 2 6 11/26 9/18 14/17 2 38 0 1 6 0 2 +3 54
C. Capela 24 18 0 9/14 0/0 6/8 2 37 0 1 2 9 9 -11 41
E. Gordon 20 4 4 7/16 2/7 4/5 6 34 1 0 1 1 3 +12 32
D. House Jr. 7 8 2 3/5 1/3 0/0 3 27 1 1 1 2 6 +10 20
P. Tucker 4 7 1 1/6 1/4 1/2 2 35 1 0 0 1 6 -7 14
Starters PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
J. Harden 45 2 6 11/26 9/18 14/17 2 38 0 1 6 0 2 +3 54
C. Capela 24 18 0 9/14 0/0 6/8 2 37 0 1 2 9 9 -11 41
E. Gordon 20 4 4 7/16 2/7 4/5 6 34 1 0 1 1 3 +12 32
D. House Jr. 7 8 2 3/5 1/3 0/0 3 27 1 1 1 2 6 +10 20
P. Tucker 4 7 1 1/6 1/4 1/2 2 35 1 0 0 1 6 -7 14
Bench PTS REB AST FG 3PT FT PF MIN STL BLK TO OREB DREB +/- FPTS
A. Rivers 10 4 3 4/8 2/6 0/0 3 33 1 0 2 1 3 +14 19
G. Green 10 5 1 3/8 3/7 1/2 2 22 0 0 0 1 4 +24 17
Nene 7 6 0 3/3 0/0 1/1 2 10 0 1 0 1 5 +25 14
B. Knight - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
M. Carter-Williams - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Ennis III - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
G. Clark - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
V. Edwards - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
M. Chriss - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I. Hartenstein - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
C. Anthony - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
C. Paul - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 127 54 17 41/86 18/45 27/35 22 236 4 4 12 16 38 +70 211