- Associated Press - Monday, November 7, 2016

James Harden set aside a rough first quarter to finish with 32 points and 15 assists, leading the Houston Rockets past the struggling Wizards 114-106 on Monday night. Washington’s John Wall broke the franchise record for career assists before getting ejected in the final minute.

Harden shot just 1 for 4 and had five turnovers in the opening period, which ended with Washington ahead 30-23. But he got more and more involved at the offensive end and scored eight consecutive Houston points in one stretch of the fourth quarter, including half of a 12-0 run that gave the Rockets a 106-95 lead with a little more than 3 1/2 minutes left.

This was his fourth consecutive game with at least 30 points and 10 assists for Harden, who entered the day leading the NBA in assists at 12.3 per game and fourth in scoring average at 31.5 points.

Ryan Anderson added 23 points for Houston.

Wall had 21 points and eight assists when he drew his second technical foul with 33.3 seconds left and Houston up 111-106. He entered the game three assists shy of Hall of Fame center Wes Unseld’s club mark of 3,822 assists and tied it in the first quarter.

He then eclipsed Unseld by feeding Bradley Beal in a 12-2 stretch to open the third quarter that briefly put the Wizards ahead. But only briefly: There were 13 lead changes in that period.

Washington, which fell to 1-5, led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, but then went nearly 5 minutes without scoring, missing 10 consecutive field goal attempts. That allowed Houston to go on a 16-0 run that gave it a 50-41 lead.

The half ended with Houston up 56-47, and while Harden only had seven points by then, he did accumulate 10 assists, including three on alley-oop passes to Clint Capela.

Harden scored at least 40 points both times Houston faced Washington last season. Rockets forwards Trevor Ariza and Nene both used to play for Washington. Nene, who went from the Wizards to the Rockets this offseason, was greeted with applause when he entered as a substitute in the first quarter; he finished with four points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.

Wall had three assists in the first quarter to pull even with Unseld, but then had zero in the second quarter. Wizards forward Markieff Morris missed his first nine shots and wound up with seven points on 3-for-14 shooting.

New Wizards coach Scott Brooks, who coached Harden from 2009-12 while both were with Oklahoma City, lavished praise on the guard before Monday’s game.

“He has all the tricks. He’s a smart basketball player that has great skill. He has great vision. He has the strength, the quickness, to get to the rim. He knows how to draw fouls,” Brooks said. “That’s a talent and, it’s not against the rules.”

The Wizards’ home stand continues with a game against the Boston Celtics and Al Horford — whom Washington hoped to land as a free agent — on Wednesday, followed by a game against LeBron James and the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday. The Wizards lost all four games against the Celtics last season.


Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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