Rockets’ juggernaut continues to roll over top NBA teams

Houston Rockets’ James Harden, left, and Chris Paul celebrate after Paul made a three-pointer during the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat at Toyota Center. (USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 23 January 2018
0

Rockets’ juggernaut continues to roll over top NBA teams

LOS ANGELES: The Houston Rockets aren’t the type of team to rest on their laurels.
Just two days after beating the reigning league champion Golden State Warriors, Houston quickly refocused on Monday night with a 99-90 victory over the Miami Heat in a battle of first-place NBA teams.
James Harden scored a team-high 28 points while Chris Paul had 16, six rebounds and six assists for the Rockets, who are blasting through one of the toughest stretches of their season.
“We got to win games like that,” Harden said. “I think they only had seven threes all night.
“We buckled down and took away the paint. Made them make tough shots over us.”
Eric Gordon came off the bench to score 16 points and Clint Capela delivered 14 for the Rockets, who won for the first time when scoring under 100 points in a game.
Hassan Whiteside led the Southeast Division-leading Heat with 22 points and 13 rebounds, while Josh Richardson finished with 12 in the loss in front of a crowd of 18,050 at the Toyota Center arena.
The Rockets, who are first in the Southwest Division, improved to 33-12 on the season by overcoming a sizeable early deficit against the Heat.
Their last three wins have all come over first-place teams, Golden State, Miami and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Houston welcomed both Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green back to their rotation after they served suspensions for trying to get into the Los Angeles Clippers’ locker room following a physical game at Staples Center arena.
Monday’s contest marked the first time in a while that the Rockets were fully healthy and the hope now is they can continue to find the right chemistry with all their injured and suspended players back in the lineup.
“We finally got all our guys healthy,” Harden said. “We got guys that can play a lot of minutes with a lot of energy.”
The short-handed Heat have also ramped up the tenacity in their play of late as they were coming off a 106-105 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
Houston’s Harden nailed a three-pointer with about three minutes left in the fourth to bust open a close game.
The Rockets then went on a 7-2 run to make it 95-90 with 38 seconds remaining.
The Heat led by double digits at halftime and kept it close down the stretch.


Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

Updated 19 February 2019
0

Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

  • It was Osaka's first match since she won the Australian Open — her second consecutive Grand Slam title.
  • World No. 67 Mladenovic lost for words after surprise win.

DUBAI: Naomi Osaka stumbled badly in her first match since winning the Australian Open as the world number one went down in a flurry of errors to exit the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.
Dubai-based Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic claimed a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the third round as Osaka made 25 unforced errors.
The rout, which featured seven breaks of the Osaka serve, took barely an hour, sending Mladenovic into a Wednesday contest with Carla Suarez Navarro.
“This is my home tournament, I live here,” world No. 67 Mladenovic said. “It’s great to get a win like this in front of a big crowd.
“Beating the number one is always special.”
The second set was riddled with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Mladenovic finished off the job with a winner to the empty court on match point.
Osaka stunned the tennis world last week by announcing her split from coach Sascha Bajin despite winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US and Australian Opens.
She said earlier this week that she would not prioritize “success over happiness” when asked about the sacking, and she never looked like winning in Dubai as she also served five double faults.
Earlier on Tuesday, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova both won their opening matches, while Elina Svitolina made a strong start to her bid for a third straight title.
Kvitova, the 2013 winner, recovered from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 and squeeze into the third round.
Halep, Dubai champion in 2015, saw off 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
The Romanian said she is still feeling the effects of her weekend final defeat in Doha by Elize Mertens.
“It was a good match because I won it. I tried to finish the points faster because I’m a little bit tired,” Halep said.
“She played well, the level was pretty good. At some points I really ran very well. I’m confident. I feel good on court even if I’m tired.”
A third former world number one also advanced as Angelique Kerber beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, said she was unfazed about the early midday start to her match.
“I don’t really care if I play the first match,” the Australian Open runner-up said. “Now I’m done, so I have a free afternoon.
“I’m not sure what I’m pleased with... maybe with my comeback at the end.”