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LeBron, Harden, Westbrook sparkle in triumphant efforts

James Harden of the Houston Rockets scored a triple double, with 17 assists — matching his career best — and 16 rebounds, helping to power the host Rockets over New York 129-122 © Getty/AFP/File / TOM PENNINGTON

WASHINGTON, United States, Jan 1Houston’s James Harden scored a career-high 53 points, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook achieved a first-half triple double and LeBron James sparked an injury-hit Cleveland squad in triumphant NBA efforts.

Westbrook, the NBA’s top scorer with 31.3 points a game, needed only 19 minutes to reach double figures and finished with 17 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds in the Thunder’s 114-88 home victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Harden, Westbrook’s former Thunder teammate, had a triple double of his own with 17 assists — matching his career best — and 16 rebounds in powering the host Rockets over New York 129-122.

Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player James scored 32 points, 17 in the first quarter, and had nine assists while Kevin Love added 28 points and 10 rebounds to spark the defending NBA champion Cavaliers over host Charlotte 121-109.

Westbrook, the only NBA player since 1997 to manage a first-half triple double, scored 11 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and passed off 12 assists to spark Oklahoma City to a 69-40 half-time advantage.

But Westbrook’s 16th triple double of the season fell short of the NBA’s fastest-ever triple double, achieved in only 17 minutes by Syracuse’s Jim Tucker in 1955.

At Charlotte, Jordan McRae scored 20 points in only his second career start to ease the load on James as Cleveland was missing guard Kyrie Irving due to a tight right hamstring and reserve forward Mike Dunleavy with an ankle injury.

Kemba Walker led Charlotte with 37 points.

At Houston, Brandon Jennings led the Knicks with 32 points while New York star Carmelo Anthony scored only seven points before leaving the game with a sore left knee.

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Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 35 points, Jabari Parker added 27 and Malcolm Brogdon contributed 15 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds for Milwaukee in the Bucks’ 116-96 victory at Chicago. Jimmy Butler scored 26 points in a losing cause.

French big man Rudy Gobert had 18 points and 13 rebounds while Gordon Hayward added 18 points to spark host Utah over Phoenix 91-86.

Mike Conley scored 22 points in his return after missing two games with a toe injury and the visiting Memphis Grizzlies ripped Sacramento 112-98 despite losing Spanish center Marc Gasol with a left ankle sprain three minutes into the second half.

The Grizzlies netted a club-record 17 3-pointers, 11 of them in the third quarter, in improving to 22-14. They made six 3-pointers in a row and 7-of-8 over a 4:30 span that saw them open a 22-point advantage.

“When we’re shooting like we were today, we’re a very tough team,” Conley said. “The ball was shared so much that guys got a lot of open looks.”

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