John Wall delivered a game-high 28 points as the Houston Rockets won their second straight game over the Sacramento Kings 102-94, despite playing without NBA all-star James Harden.
Eric Gordon replaced Harden and scored 21 points, while Christian Wood finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Rockets, who also beat the Kings 122-119 on New Year’s Eve.
“’I just put in a lot of hard work and dedication to get to this point,” Wall said. ”I couldn’t ask for a better start to be 2-0 in my first two games.”
Harden had 33 points in the New Year’s Eve game but was a late scratch Saturday. The disgruntled American, who has asked for a trade, sat out with a sore ankle, although he has not been placed on the injury list.
Without Harden, Wall carried the offensive load for the Rockets. He had missed their first two games of the new season because of Covid-19 restrictions and was out all of last season because of injuries.
Sterling Brown came off the bench to score 11 points in the win.
Rockets coach Stephen Silas said he is pleasantly surprised with the immediate impact from Wall.
“’Whatever expectations I had, he’s obviously exceeded them,” he said.
The Rockets seized their first double-digit lead of the game, 92-81, early in the fourth quarter when David Nwaba and Gordon drained back to back threes.
The Kings got to 92-83 with just over eight minutes left, but then cold shooting and turnovers resulted in them going scoreless for five minutes.
De’Aaron Fox led the Kings with 23 points, while Buddy Hield chipped in 17 points in the loss.
OKLAHOMA CITY BEATS ORLANDO
Elsewhere, Darius Bazley had 19 points and 12 rebounds to lift the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 108-99 road win over the Orlando Magic.
Bazley posted his second double-double of the season after making just one last season for the Thunder, who had six players in double-figure scoring.
George Hill finished with 18 points, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 16 for the Thunder, who snapped a three-game losing skid.
Nikola Vucevic scored a team-high 30 points, while Terrence Ross added 26 for Orlando, that lost two straight after starting the season 4-0.
Orlando was just eight of 28 from the floor in the fourth, missing all 10 of its three-point attempts.
In Philadelphia, Ben Simmons had a triple-double, and Joel Embiid tallied 19 points and 14 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers dominated the Charlotte Hornets 127-112.
Tobias Harris scored a team-high 24 points, and Simmons finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists as the Sixers won their 12th consecutive game over the Hornets. Philadelphia has not lost to Charlotte since 2016.
Terry Rozier had 35 points for the Hornets in the loss.
CAVS RALLY PAST HAWKS
Collin Sexton scored 27 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 27.9 seconds left, to lead the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers to a 96-91 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.
Sexton was 10-for-18 from the floor and extended his streak of 20-point games to 11 to help the Cavs erase a 15-point second-half deficit and break a two-game losing streak.
Andre Drummond had 12 points and 11 rebounds to set a franchise record with six double-doubles to open the season.
The Hawks, who were playing the second leg of a back-to-back, grew weary in the second half. Trae Young scored a season-low 16 points, 14 below his season average, and had 10 assists. Clint Capela had a season-high 16 points and 16 rebounds, his second straight double-double, and De’Andre Hunter scored 17.
The Cavaliers, who had only 10 available players, got 14 points and nine rebounds off the bench from JaVale McGee.
The Hawks, who defeated the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, started strong. They were sparked by Hunter’s 12 points in the first quarter and led 35-25. Atlanta did not commit a turnover in the opening quarter.
Atlanta built the lead to 56-44 at halftime, with Capela logging a double-double by the break (12 points, 10 rebounds). The Cavs shot poorly in the half, making only 42.2 percent from the field and 2-for-11 on 3-pointers.
The Hawks pushed the lead to 15 points when they led 67-52, but Cleveland came all the way back to within 72-70 on Damyean Dotson’s 3-pointer. Atlanta led 74-70 after three quarters.
Cleveland took the lead with Cedi Osman’s 3-point basket at 9:47, which put the Cavs ahead 76-74 and they established a three-point lead when Sexton’s basket made it 86-83.
Atlanta tied the game 88-88 on a 3-pointer by Bogdan Bogdanovic, but Sexton answered with the decisive basket the next trip down the floor.
Atlanta announced Danilo Gallinari would miss at least two weeks with a right ankle injury. That likely means the veteran will miss seven games. The Hawks continue their three-game homestand on Monday against the New York Knicks. Cleveland travels to Orlando on Monday for the third stop on the six-game road trip.*AFP