By Agence France-Presse
WASHINGTON – NBA scoring leaders James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo powered their teams to decisive NBA triumphs Sunday while Detroit snapped a five-game losing streak by rallying past Denver.
Houston star Harden scored 40 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out nine assists as the Rockets defeated visiting New Orleans and rookie star Zion Williamson 117-109.
Harden, on pace for his third NBA scoring title in a row with 35.6 points a game, hit 12-of-24 shots from the floor, 7-of-15 from 3-point range, and all nine of his free throws.
“We want to finish these games up before the break and come back with some momentum,” Harden said.
“When we hit our stride it’s going to be pretty scary. We’re still trying to find it and we will.”
Greek big man Antetokounmpo scored 30 points, exactly his season scoring average, while pulling down 19 rebounds and passing off nine assists to spark the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks over the visiting Phoenix Suns 129-108.
Khris Middleton added 25 points for the Bucks, who improved the NBA’s best record to 42-7, while Devin Booker led the Suns with 32 points.
“We all depend on each other and we just want to continue to get better each night,” said Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez, who had 17 points and nine blocked shots.
The Rockets, outrebounded 63-43, used a smaller lineup with Swiss center Clint Capela injured, taking full advantage of the speed, passing and playmaking skills of Harden and Russell Westbrook, who contributed 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
“Be healthy and continue to keep our good spirit up, we’ll be all right,” Harden said.
The Rockets, fifth in the Western Conference at 31-18, committed only seven turnovers compared to 21 by the Pelicans, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds from Williamson.
The highly touted NBA newcomer played a season-high 32 minutes after making his debut only two weeks ago due to a knee injury that sidelined him for three months.
“Beast,” Harden said of Williamson. “He has a feel for the game. He’s strong. He’s going to be really great.”
The Pelicans, led by 28 points and 12 rebounds from Brandon Ingram, went 10-of-33 from 3-point range, missing their last 33-point shots after the middle of the third quarter.
“They play at a very high pace, very fast and they put up a lot of 3s,” Harden said. “We just had to keep up with them, make sure we contain their dribble penetration and offensively just do what we do.”
Andre Drummond scored 21 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as the Detroit Pistons rallied from 21 points down early to defeat visiting Denver 128-123 in over-time.
Reggie Jackson came off the bench to score 20 points while Detroit reserve Bruce Brown added 19 as seven Pistons scored in double figures.
Nuggets center Nikola Jokic of Serbia had a triple double with a game-high 39 points plus 10 rebounds and 11 assists in a losing cause as Denver fell to 34-16, third in the West.
At 18-33, Detroit stands 11th in the Eastern Conference, four games behind Orlando for the final playoff spot.
Champs win streak at 11
The defending champion Toronto Raptors, led by 31 points from reserve Terence Davis, stretched their win streak to 11 games by defeating visiting Chicago 129-102.
At 36-14, the Raptors have the third-best record in the NBA, trailing only the Bucks and the West-leading Los Angeles Lakers.
Cameroon star Pascal Siakam scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Raptors. Thaddeus Young led Chicago with 21 points.