Nets lose Harden but beat Rockets, move into first in East

Kyrie Irving had 31 points and a season-high 12 assists, and the Brooklyn Nets overcame the loss of James Harden to beat the Houston Rockets 120-108 and move into first place in the Eastern Conference

NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving had 31 points and a season-high 12 assists, and the Brooklyn Nets overcame the loss of James Harden to beat the Houston Rockets 120-108 on Wednesday night and move into first place in the Eastern Conference.

Harden sat out the fourth quarter against his former team with right hamstring tightness, finishing with 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

The Nets put together the pivotal run without him, scoring 12 straight midway through the final period to turn a six-point deficit into a 107-101 lead, winning a game they trailed by 18 after less than five minutes.

Joe Harris added 28 points for the Nets, who didn’t even lead until the last half-minute of the third quarter, but emerged with their 19th win in 22 games, improving to 26-9 since acquiring Harden from Houston on Jan. 14.

At 33-15, they are half-game ahead of Philadelphia atop the East.

Kevin Porter Jr. scored 20 points for the Rockets, who got Christian Wood back after missing the previous two games because of injury and illness but were without John Wall because of a knee injury.

Danuel House Jr. added 18 points and Wood had 14.

Nets coach Steve Nash said before the game his team had been in the doldrums lately and its level of play had dropped, and nothing changed in the first few minutes.

The Rockets jumped to a 24-6 lead, with an 8-for-9 start that included makes on all five 3-point attempts. They barely cooled off the rest of the quarter, going 15 for 19 (79%) and taking a 42-29 lead.

Brooklyn finally sustained a good stretch with 12-0 run in the third that cut a 13-point deficit to 82-81 and Houston went into the fourth up by one.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Houston used its 32nd different starting lineup in 47 games. … Wall struggled to 7-for-26 shooting in his last two games and sat out a workout Tuesday because of his knee pain. The Rockets listed the injury as a left knee effusion and it’s unknown whether it will keep him out longer. “Kind of remains to be seen as far as the next step or how long it’ll be,” coach Stephen Silas said. “Hopefully it will be just tonight and he’ll play in Boston.”

Nets: Brooklyn finished 11-2 in March, tying its record in February 2004 for the best in franchise history with a minimum of 10 games played. … Blake Griffin had 11 points.

TAKING THEIR SHOTS

“It was up to each individual guy to make the decision whether they wanted to do it or not, but we were in full support as an organization either way,” Silas said.

UP NEXT

Rockets: Visit Boston on Friday.

Nets: Host Charlotte on Thursday.

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