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NBA scores 2016: James Harden isn't letting the Rockets fold just yet

The Rockets came back from 21 down to stun the Blazers, plus Stephen Curry set another NBA record and everything else from Thursday night in the NBA.

The Portland Trail Blazers had the Houston Rockets' number. They had beaten the Rockets twice in February and, with a 21-point third quarter lead on Thursday, appeared well on their way to a third win in a row. Then James Harden took over.

Behind 46 points from Harden -- 34 of which came in the second half -- the Rockets erased the double-digit deficit and went on to to pick up a huge 119-105 win against the Blazers on the road. The Rockets ended the game on a 44-16 run with Harden scoring 30 of those points.

Harden's big second half spun the narrative of this game on its head.

It was supposed to be the seventh straight win for the Blazers and the Rockets were supposed to have dropped their eighth game in 11 tries, but instead the Rockets showed urgency that they had been lacking -- urgency that could save their season.

Through the first two-and-a-half quarters the Blazers looked like the team that had won 11 of 12 games and was 15-3 since Jan. 10 -- their frenetic offense ran circles around the Rockets. Houston, meanwhile, plodded through isolation sets.

A sequence in the second quarter was a microcosm of the game. Corey Brewer drove to the hoop with one thing on his mind: he wanted to score. That meant ignoring whether help defense was coming over or looking for an open teammate. He barreled his was into the paint from the corner, but ran into Ed Davis. Brewer threw the ball up in desperation, but Davis blocked it, setting up this fast break:

A switch turned in the third quarter, and it was because Harden turned into a hero. He was unstoppable in the second half of the third quarter and the fourth, going off from everywhere on the court while the Rockets' defense slowed the fast pace of the Blazers by forcing turnovers and sloppy play -- Portland had 21 turnovers. Once they were able to stifle the Blazers, Harden could do his thing.

Harden's heroics couldn't have come at a better time. If the Rockets would have lost, they would have fallen two games under .500 and a half-game out of the eighth playoff spot in the West. Instead, the win put them a half-game ahead of the Utah Jazz for eighth.

Effort has been an issue for the Rockets all season long. They showed what they're capable when they go all out against the Blazers, now they need to do it consistently.

3 other things

The Oklahoma City Thunder have a defensive problem.

The Thunder gave up a whopping 123 points in a four-point loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday. Sure, Russell Westbrook had 44 points and nine assists and Kevin Durant added 32 and 14 rebounds, but the Thunder had absolutely no way of stopping Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. The lackluster defense is a recurring theme for the Thunder. Their defensive rating (points given up per 100 possessions) is 102.1, which, ranked 12th best in the NBA, is decent. But it's a step behind other title contenders like the San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Thunder have faltered even more defensively in February, giving up 107 points per 100 possessions. They went 5-4 in the month, a far cry from the pace of the first four months of the season. It's not that the Pelicans have a bad offense -- they're ranked 13th in the NBA in offensive efficiency -- but the Thunder had no answer as four Pelicans scored more than 20 points.

The Pelicans, meanwhile, have won five of seven games and are keeping those ever-so-slight playoff hopes alive. They're now 23-34, which is 5 1/2 games out of the playoffs. The chances are so slim, but Davis is doing unbelievable things again -- he had 30 points, six rebounds and four blocks -- and the Pelicans are going to give teams fits the rest of the season.

The Spurs and Jazz make sure defense still gets it's due.

The Spurs led the Jazz 39-35 at the half. That isn't a typo, both the Spurs and the Jazz know how to play defense. Both teams found some offense in the second half as the Spurs went on to win, 96-78, but both of these teams are ready to buckle down and defend come playoff time. The Spurs have been playing great defense all season. With a defensive rating of 95.5, they're best in the league by a long shot. And that's what makes them so scary come playoff time. It seems pretty unfathomable that the Warriors might have an off-night offensively, but the Spurs can afford to. With a defense like this, they can shoot poorly from the field and still be okay. If you can hold an opponent to under 20 percent from deep -- the Jazz shot 3-of-17 (17.6 percent) from three-point land -- you're going to be able to win a lot of ball games.

The Stephen Curry show never stops

Curry set the NBA record for consecutive games with a three-point field goal by making one in his 128th straight game in the Warriors' 130-114 win over the Orlando Magic. He didn't stop after one, though. Curry went on to go 10-of-15 from deep on his way to 51 points as the Warriors moved to 52-5. The Warriors started out slowly, but Curry wasn't letting the Warriors lose a gimme on the road. He continued to amaze in this already amazing season -- with his 10 threes, he moved to 276 on the season. His NBA record for made threes in one season from last year is 286, it's safe to say that isn't going to make it through the first week of March.

Play of the night

At this point, Curry buzzer beaters from half court are almost a nightly occurrence. He plopped this one in from half court a game after doing essentially the same thing against the Heat on Wednesday.

3 fun things

Stephen Curry set an NBA record by making a three in 128 straight games.

Then Curry gave his shoes to a kid because it the youngster's birthday.

The halftime show in Utah was ... well ... weird.


Warriors 130, Magic 114 (Golden State of Mind recapOrlando Pinstriped Post recap)

Celtics 112, Bucks 107 (Celtics Blog recapBrew Hoops recap)

Pelicans 123, Thunder 119 (The Bird Writes recap Welcome to Loud City)

Nets 116, Suns 106 (Nets Daily recapBright Side of the Sun recap)

Spurs 96, Jazz 78 (Pounding the Rock recapSLC Dunk recap)

Rockets 119, Blazers 105 (The Dream Shake recapBlazers' Edge recap)