HOUSTON — James Harden scored 29 points and Russell Westbrook added his second straight triple-double with 28 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds to lead the Houston Rockets to a 126-123 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.
Westbrook hit two clutch free throws to give Houston the three-point lead with 6.1 seconds remaining. Josh Hart missed a 3 at the buzzer to give Houston the win.
Houston worked through occasional chemistry issues, frequently turning the ball over on errant passes. Westbrook and Harden combined for 12 turnovers, with Harden leading the game with eight. Harden was 2 of 18 from the 3-point line after going 1 for 8 in the opener. He was 8-for-29 from the field, but was 11 of 12 from the free throw line.
The Rockets bounced back after a 117-111 season-opening loss to Milwaukee on Thursday night.
Brandon Ingram gave Houston’s defense fits, scoring 35 points while adding a game-high 15 rebounds. Lonzo Ball had 18 points on 4 of 9 shooting from 3.
New Orleans is off to its first 0-3 start since the 2016-2017 season.
The Pelicans were without point guard Jrue Holiday, who is day-to-day with a left knee sprain. Hart started in Holiday’s place, scoring 23 points in 34 minutes. The Pelicans are already without top draft pick Zion Williamson, who is expected to miss the first six to eight weeks of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in his right knee.
For the last play of the third quarter, Westbrook found Austin Rivers for a corner 3 to cut New Orleans’ lead to 100-97 entering the fourth quarter.
The Rockets opened up the final quarter on an 8-0 run, capped off by a thunderous two-handed dunk by Westbrook in transition to put Houston up 105-100.
The Rockets led 29-24 at the end of the first quarter, but the Pelicans had a better second quarter and entered halftime tied at 61.
In the final play of the first half, Harden was unable to cleanly get a 3 off at the buzzer in a heavily defended shot attempt. After the horn sounded, Harden slammed the ball off the court in frustration, only for it to come back hit him in the mouth.
Cavaliers top Pacers, Tristan Thompson makes first 3
In Cleveland, Tristan Thompson scored 25 points and made his first career 3-pointer, Kevin Love scored 21 and the Cleveland Cavaliers played well in a 110-99 home-opening win on Saturday night, giving first-year coach John Beilein his first NBA victory.
The Cavs opened their 50th season by honoring their past — and especially the 1990s — throughout the game. The present looked more promising.
Love was much more involved than during an opening-night loss at Orlando on Wednesday, adding 13 rebounds and nine assists. Thompson also had 13 rebounds, Collin Sexton scored 18 and rookie Darius Garland 12, making a key 3-pointer down the stretch to slow Indiana’s comeback.
Malcolm Brogdon scored 30 and had 10 assists to lead the Pacers.
The Cavs blitzed the Pacers to open second quarter, going on a 26-4 run. They made seven of 10 3-point attempts in the quarter and outscored Indiana 39-20 in the period to open a 65-48 halftime lead.
One of Love’s 3s put Cleveland up 21, and the Cavs showed excellent patience while moving the ball from side to side to look for better shots. Shot selection has been something Beilein, the former Michigan coach, has been harping on and his team seems to be listening.
But it was Thompson’s stunning 3-pointer in the first quarter that got the Cavs going.
Thompson, who has been working on his range in practice, hadn’t attempted a 3 since the 2016-17 season, when he pulled up and dropped a 27-footer — his first make from beyond the arc in 642 games. He had been 0 for 9 on long attempts in eight-plus seasons.