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
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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.


‘Fighter’ Zidane as good a coach as he was a player, says Klopp

Updated 12 min 53 sec ago
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‘Fighter’ Zidane as good a coach as he was a player, says Klopp

  • Jurgen Klopp: “If a lot of people think Zinedine Zidane doesn’t have much knowledge of tactical things — because a lot of people think that about me — that would be really funny.”
  • Zidane’s detractors see him more as a supervisor of a supremely talented squad rather than a tactical genius.

KIEV: Jurgen Klopp is in no doubt that Zinedine Zidane has shown himself to be as good a coach as he was during a wonderful playing career, as the two men prepare to lead their Liverpool and Real Madrid sides into Saturday’s Champions League final.
“If a lot of people think Zinedine Zidane doesn’t have much knowledge of tactical things — because a lot of people think that about me — that would be really funny,” Klopp told media at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium on the eve of the game.
Zidane finds himself in a position to win a third Champions League title despite only becoming Real coach in January 2016.
If he does that, the 45-year-old would equal Bob Paisley and Carlo Ancelotti as the only coaches to have won the European Cup three times.
Despite that, Zidane’s detractors see him more as a supervisor of a supremely talented squad rather than a tactical genius.
Klopp, who arrived at Anfield in October 2015, added: “Zidane for me is one of the best five players of all time in football.
“Since two and a half years now, I am longer at Liverpool than he is at Real Madrid and he can win for the third time the Champions League.
“You have to expect he is brilliant, like he was as a player. His players and him seem to work like a clock from Switzerland.”
While Zidane was a Champions League and World Cup winner as a player, Klopp’s own playing career in his native Germany was modest.
The two have taken different paths in the game, having come from very different backgrounds.
“Zinedine Zidane was his whole life a fighter growing up in Marseille in the area where he has grown up, and to have his kind of career, you need to be a fighter,” said the German.
“Only when he was a player, he didn’t look like that.
“I saw his face when someone asked him in a press conference about hunger, and he got angry — the same would happen to me and I am from a small village in the Black Forest.”
Klopp and his captain Jordan Henderson faced a huge gathering of media in the Ukrainian capital on Friday along with Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk.
All of them appeared relaxed ahead of the game, as they hope to secure Liverpool’s sixth European Cup, and a first since the unforgettable defeat of AC Milan in Istanbul in 2005.
To do so Liverpool must end Real’s reign as European champions as the Spanish giants go for a 13th European crown in Kiev.
“We’ve done fantastically well to get to this point,” Henderson said.
“We want to go one step further and be remembered for the right reasons and that is winning the Champions League.”
Liverpool’s return among the European elite is largely attributed to Klopp’s impact as manager.
However, the German has lost his last five finals, including the Europa League final in 2016 when Liverpool lost 3-1 to Sevilla.
And Henderson believes the English giants can use the pain of that defeat for a different outcome against Madrid.
“It hurt that night, but you can use that as motivation going forward and we’ve done that since that night.
“But it’s also important for us to win trophies and hopefully we can start that tomorrow.
“The club have won the competition a few times so it is the DNA of the club to win trophies. We want to win the trophy for fans and the club and we’re certainly going in the right direction.”