A few days after getting back into the same uniform as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, James Harden will see them on the court again but as part of the opposing team.
The first two times that happened went very badly for his Houston Rockets.
After shooting poorly against his former team as Houston was blown out in both matchups, Harden has a chance to spoil the Oklahoma City Thunder's return from the All-Star break and help hand them a season-high third straight loss.
Harden, in his first season with the Rockets after spending the past three with the Thunder, played in his first All-Star game Sunday and was among the unofficial hosts for the weekend in Houston. After coaching the winning West team in the All-Star celebrity game Friday night, Harden had 15 points in the main event Sunday in a 143-138 victory over the East.
Durant scored a game-high 30 and Westbrook added 14 as they played on the same team with Harden for the first time since losing Game 5 of last year's NBA finals to Miami.
"Playing with (Harden) today made me miss him a little bit," Durant told the NBA's official website. "I'm happy he was an All-Star, especially in the city he plays in. It was a lot of fun. I didn't want it to be over."
For Harden, the feeling was mutual.
"I miss those guys as well," he said. "Just being with them every day, when you leave somewhere, you definitely are going to miss them. This weekend was good for us just to see each other and catch up on good times."
The times haven't been so good for Harden when his new team has played his old one. His return to Oklahoma City was a 120-98 loss Nov. 28 as he shot 3 for 16 and had 17 points. Harden scored 25 in the rematch but was 6 of 17 from the field in a 124-94 home loss Dec. 29.
The Thunder shot a combined 50.8 percent in those games while limiting the Rockets to 40.6.
Harden played very well in his final four games before All-Star weekend, averaging 32.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists before injuries kept him out of a 106-96 loss to the Clippers last Wednesday.
Houston (29-26) alternated wins and losses in its last six games before the break with poor defense remaining a major issue. All six of those opponents scored more than 100 points as the Rockets allowed an average of 109.3.
Defense also was a big problem for Oklahoma City (39-14) in its final two games before the break, losing 109-94 at Utah last Tuesday and 110-100 to Miami on Thursday. The Thunder are 30-2 when holding the opposition under 100 points.
Durant totaled 73 points in those two games while Westbrook had 48, but the duo combined for 22 turnovers.
Durant is coming off his third straight All-Star appearance with at least 30 points.
"I just go out there and have fun, use this experience a little bit and try to bring it to my team," he said. "Just how fun the game is supposed to be every single night and how blessed we are to be playing on this stage. I'm looking forward to the second half, hopefully it's a good one."
Houston has won four straight and 11 of 14 at home. The only visiting team to win there by more than 10 points this season was Oklahoma City.
The Associated Press News Service
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