James Harden and Russell Westbrook will "make it work" at the Houston Rockets, insisted head coach Mike D'Antoni.

The Rockets acquired Westbrook in a blockbuster trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder, reuniting the 2017 NBA MVP with Harden.

Harden and Westbrook like to control the ball but D'Antoni is confident the latter will fit into Houston's line-up without any drastic changes to accommodate the All-Stars.

"We're not changing much," D'Antoni said on the The Woj Pod while discussing the addition of Westbrook. "We'll tweak it, but to say you've gotta change and you can't win that way, that's B.S."

Some critics believe the Rockets do not spread the ball around enough and play too much isolation.

Now, some are questioning whether it will be even more challenging to play that type of offense with both Harden and Westbrook, who are two ball-dominant players, on the court.

D'Antoni, however, does not think it will be a problem because the two want to play together, and they previously teamed up in Oklahoma City.

"They’ll make it work," D'Antoni said. "Do we sometimes go too much one-on-one? Yeah. Do we sometimes iso or not move enough? Yeah, we do sometimes. But I can also make the argument that sometimes teams over-pass. You try to find the balance of what is best for your players."

D'Antoni explained the Rockets will find what works best for both players to maximise their talents.

"I will start looking now at tape and trying to figure out the dynamics between the two and how they played in Oklahoma City and how it's changed since then, in the Olympics," D'Antoni said.

"But it's exciting. Whenever you have great talent, it's exciting because it gives you a chance to win, and that's what we all want to do. But it'll be my job to maximise their talents and what they do best, and it should be really good.

"I saw it in USA Basketball. You put [the stars] all together and they want to make it work, it doesn't matter. The more talent you have, the better it is. And I think right now with this duo and other people, it'll work. Now, to what degree, we'll see."

James Harden hopes his eye injury improves ahead of Game 3 as the Houston Rockets aim to haul themselves back into contention against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA playoffs.

The league's reigning MVP sustained the problem during the Rockets' 115-109 defeat at Oracle Arena as the double defending champions took a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semi-finals.

Harden still managed 29 points, along with seven rebounds and four assists, but was clearly operating below his influential best as the Warriors took control of the best-of-seven series, which moves to Houston on Saturday.

"I can barely see, but I tried to go out there and do what I can to help my team-mates," Harden told a news conference.

"I don't know, it's pretty blurry right now so hopefully it gets better day by day.

"They put a couple of drops in to help numb it a little bit but all the lights are blurry."

Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni, meanwhile, said Harden's ability to return to the court even after such an injury was testament to his fighting qualities.

"He fought through some stuff…the guy looked like he wasn't in great shape the first half, I think it might have cleared up a little bit but he got raked pretty good in the eyes," D'Antoni said.

"But that's him, I didn't have a doubt he was coming back unless it was something catastrophic.

"I'm sure he would have loved to have played better but under the circumstances I thought he played great and we had our chances. Down towards the end we were only three or four down but they made big plays and we just didn't get it done."

Houston Rockets star Chris Paul will be on the floor for Game 2 against NBA champions the Golden State Warriors after avoiding suspension.

Paul received a second technical foul and was ejected with less than five seconds remaining in Sunday's 104-100 loss to the Warriors in their Western Conference semi-final opener.

The Rockets guard - who finished with 17 points and four assists at Oracle Arena - appeared to bump into a referee during the exchange, which could have led to a suspension.

Paul was disciplined on Monday as the NBA announced a $35,000 fine for "aggressively confronting and recklessly making contact with a game official", without a ban.

"A lot of things need to be improved," Paul told reporters after the loss. "We can do better on our switches, rebounding, too. We definitely have to rebound better. 

"And we've got to execute and understand that they got shooters, so we've got to try to force the other guys to shoot more shots."

Both teams were unhappy with the officiating throughout the game. Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters the referees admitted they missed multiple calls in the first half that would have sent James Harden to the free-throw line.

"I mean the response was they came in at half-time and said they missed them," D'Antoni said. "That's what they told me. They missed four of them. That's 12 foul shots. So be it. They're trying to do the best they can do. And obviously it was what it was."

Harden tallied 35 points on just nine-of-28 shooting as Houston went down in the opening game.

"I mean, I just want a fair chance, man," Harden told reporters. "Call the game how it's supposed to be called and that's it. And I'll live with the results. Just call the game the way it's supposed to be called and we'll live with the results. It's plain and simple."

Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antonio said the referees admitted they missed calls on three-point attempts during the NBA playoff loss to the Golden State Warriors.

The Rockets were clearly frustrated with the officiating in their 104-100 defeat against the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference semi-finals.

Chris Paul earned two technical fouls and an ejection for arguing with officials during the game, and Rockets coach D'Antoni picked up a technical for arguing a no-call in the third quarter on Sunday.

D'Antoni was not happy with officials not calling fouls on Warriors players defending three-point attempts.

After the game, D'Antoni said: "They [officials] just came at half-time and said they missed them.

"They missed four of them. That's 12 foul shots."

The issue throughout the game, for James Harden and the other Rockets long-range shooters, was whether Golden State players gave them room to land after their shots.

Ricky Rubio explained the Utah Jazz were desperate to stop James Harden's trademark step-back threes after he guarded the Houston Rockets star from behind.

Harden is in the running for a second consecutive NBA MVP award after another stunning season in which he averaged 36.1 points per game.

Each new opponent has sought a way to contain Harden and the Jazz were no different in Game 1 of their playoff series, with Rubio's bizarre approach allowing the Rockets guard to move past him before attempting to block from behind.

But Houston ran out 122-90 winners, with Harden putting up 29 points and making four shots from beyond the arc.

Rubio explained: "We shaded him right because, on the left, he's got the step-back and it's a three every time, no matter who is on him. He is one of the best in the league at doing it.

"I think this year he had more threes than Steph Curry just doing step-backs. That's crazy - you're talking about Steph Curry, one of the best on the league, if not the best.

"So we would rather him take 20 or 30 shots and him score 20 points than just have the threes."

Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni was not convinced, though, as he insists there is no stopping Harden.

"He can have a bad game and they'll attribute it to something. Sometimes humans have bad games," he said. "But you're not stopping him, I don't care what you do."

Houston Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni thinks his team can compete with two-time defending champions the Golden State Warriors.

Houston battled Golden State in the Western Conference Finals in 2017-18 and held a 3-2 series lead before ultimately falling in game seven. The two teams have a chance to meet again in the playoffs this season.

The Rockets started slowly but have turned it around and enter play on Wednesday in third place in the West. Meanwhile, Golden State are once again leading the conference.

"Well, I thought we had a great crack last year, so I don't know – we'll see," D'Antoni told The Athletic. "I'm confident, as I was when we were 11-14, that we'll give them a run.

"Now they might beat us. They're the best team. They're the champs right now. They've proven it, and they've got nothing to prove."

D'Antoni said he has not seen much of the Warriors since they re-signed center Andrew Bogut last month.

"They are different, much different," D'Antoni said. "They're even different with [Bogut]. And you know they're going to turn it on, but we just – we like what we've got."

Houston opened the season with an 11-14 record. D'Antoni, however, said the team never lost confidence.

"We never lost faith," D'Antoni said. "The players never lost faith. And I kept telling them, obviously it's great that you don't lose faith but if you think you're OK y'all are crazy. We're not OK, but we will be OK, and you have to have that confidence.

"They just kept believing, kept going, and they were really good … they knew they were going to turn it around."

The Rockets will enter their matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday with a 50-28 record. They have four regular-season games remaining.

Mike D'Antoni saluted the "remarkable" James Harden after he inspired the Houston Rockets to a 119-108 victory over the Sacramento Kings with a 50-point triple-double.

The reigning NBA MVP poured in 50 points, took 11 rebounds and laid on 10 assists in another imperious display at the Toyota Center on Saturday.

Harden now has five 50-point triple-doubles in his career and has racked up half a century of points in 18 NBA matches.

Coach D'Antoni hailed Harden's astonishing consistency for the play-off bound Rockets.

"It's remarkable what he does, and he does it every night," D'Antoni said. "I keep thinking, 'Gosh, can he do this every game?' And then he does it for three years."

The Kings led by 10 points in the second quarter and held a slender advantage going into the last, but the Rockets were not to be denied a fourth win in five matches.

"They made a run, which we knew they were going to have in them," Harden said.

"But I just tried to be aggressive, whether it was making an assist or getting to the basket or shooting my shot. That was it."

James Harden's 61-point eruption against the San Antonio Spurs left Mike D'Antoni to marvel at what the Houston Rockets coach dubbed "one of the best performances".

Harden rallied the Rockets from a six-point deficit with four minutes remaining, scoring 13 consecutive points - including three successive triples - to rescue a 111-105 win for Houston.

The reigning NBA MVP hit 27 points in the first quarter and went on to join Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan on the list of players to register multiple 60-point games in the same season.

Harden, who also had 61 points against the New York Knicks in January, tied Jordan and Bryant for the most points in a two-game span over the past 50 seasons, his efforts on Friday taking him to 118 following the 57 he racked up against the Memphis Grizzlies two days earlier.

"I don't know how you get any better," D'Antoni said. "Whoever was in the gym tonight probably [saw] something they have never seen before.

"There's no way. That was one of the best performances - the magnitude of the game, we needed it - just everything. I don't know how many points he got in the last four minutes, but we were down. The guy was playing."

Giannis Antetokounmpo is seen as the favourite for this year's MVP, but Harden's team-mate Chris Paul is in no doubt this performance solidified his status in the race for that honour.

"I mean, what else have you got to do? This was tough, this was crazy," Paul said.

"I keep thinking about a conversation I had with Paul Pierce after his last game when I was with the Clippers, and talking about having an opportunity to appreciate greatness. Sheesh, that's tough. Not only that performance, but we won. We needed it."

"Some of the shots he hit today, it's remarkable," guard Gerald Green added. "I've seen a lot of basketball in my life, played against a lot of people, and his talent level is just something that I've just never seen before.

"The only person that could probably guard him is the coaches and the referee. That's it. There's nobody that can stop him. He's just one of those types of players that he's able to get a shot off at any time.

"He doesn't have any weaknesses. The only person that can stop him is [D'Antoni] if he takes him out, and the referees if they foul him out. That's it."

The Rockets are third in the Western Conference at 46-27, with the Spurs occupying the eighth seed at 42-31.

"We gave up a million points in the first quarter, and they had 19 free throws in the first half and none in the third quarter," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "You play with your heart and you play between the ears also.

"We played smarter and we played harder in the second half, but you can't do that against a good team like Houston or any team in the NBA. We played the last two quarters, and then at the end, James put on an MVP-type performance. So that's that."

Houston Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni had no interest in hyping up Wednesday's game against the Golden State Warriors, despite Stephen Curry targeting the matchup as "an opportunity to send a statement".

The Rockets have won nine consecutive games in the NBA, while champions the Warriors have lost six of their last 10 - including a reverse at the hands of Houston.

Those contrasting runs have built anticipation ahead of this week's big clash and Curry added extra weight to that when he outlined Golden State's plans to halt the Rockets.

But with Curry speaking after a defeat to the Phoenix Suns, D'Antoni joked that the Warriors might have been better off focusing on that game first.

"Yeah, well, they should have probably said it before the game," he quipped.

D'Antoni added that he was not overly concerned by any conversation around the meeting with Golden State, though, believing that there is a demand for such matchups to be needlessly talked up in the NBA.

"I'm sure they are [wanting to send a statement]," he said. "Why wouldn't they? I'd be surprised if they didn't feel that way.

"They were going to make a statement. They were going to come out, they were going to play. They probably stated the obvious. If they didn't say anything, I'm sure they're thinking it.

"You know how today is. Everybody's got something to say. I've got something to say."

Rockets star James Harden was similarly dismissive of the opportunity to talk about the Warriors after a 118-106 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.

"I don't know how [the Warriors] feel," he said, having scored 28 points. "All I'm worried about is what's in this locker room."

Houston Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni is unworried about James Harden's recent shooting struggles.

Harden did not have his best game on Wednesday, but he did just enough to lead the Rockets to a win.

The 29-year-old star missed 19 of his 29 shots and connected on only one of his 11 three-point attempts.

Harden, however, finished with 30 points, including 19 in the second half, in Houston's 118-113 victory over the Hornets in Charlotte.

"He'll be fine," D'Antoni said. "That's the least of my worries is how he's going to play. He's going to be good."

Harden also added seven assists, two steals and was a perfect nine of nine from the free throw line.

"Luckily, I'm able to do more things than just score the basketball," Harden told reporters after the game. "On the nights where the ball's not going in, I'm able to get to the foul line, I'm able to create steals, I'm able to assist the basketball. I'm able to do the intangible things, take charges to help the team win."

Harden has been dealing with a neck injury and sat out the team's matchup with the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. He returned two days later and shot just 33.3 per cent from the floor in Houston's win over the Atlanta Hawks.

The Rockets trailed the Hornets by four at the end of the third quarter but opened the final period on an 18-4 run to take control.

"We did a really good job defensively and just being more aggressive," Harden said about Houston's fourth quarter.

Houston improved to 36-25 with the victory and have now won three of their last four games. They finished play on Wednesday in fifth place of the Western Conference with a 36-25 record.

Harden, the 2018 NBA MVP, is averaging 36.2 points and 7.6 assists this season. He is shooting 43.8 per cent from the field and 36.3 per cent from three-point range.

The Rockets will host the Miami Heat on Thursday.

James Harden has been ruled out of the Houston Rockets' showdown with reigning NBA champions the Golden State Warriors due to neck injury.

Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni announced Harden's absence just hours before Saturday's clash.

Harden was officially listed as questionable for Houston's road game as a result of a cervical strain in his neck.

But the in-form Rockets star is now out with the injury as well as flu-like symptoms.

It is not clear when Harden initially suffered the injury, but ESPN notes he received treatment on his right shoulder and neck while resting on the sideline during Thursday's loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, that did not limit Harden's play as he finished the game with 30 points in 37 minutes.

Harden also had pain from a left shoulder strain in the days leading up to the All-Star break, though it did not force him to miss any games.

Harden is making a strong case for his MVP campaign, averaging 36.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists to help the Rockets to a 33-25 record.

The Houston Rockets cannot rely on James Harden being "superhuman every night", said Mike D'Antoni after the reigning MVP tied an NBA record for the most missed three-pointers in a game.

Although Harden tied Kobe Bryant for the most successive 30-point matches (16) by scoring 38 in a 116-109 loss to the Orlando Magic, he shot just one-for-17 from beyond the arc to match Damon Stoudamire's unwanted mark.

Rockets head coach D'Antoni was disappointed by Houston's defensive display and called on other players to step up when the six-time All-Star is having a difficult time.

"The problem is you can't rely on [Harden] to be superhuman every night. We have to have some contribution from other guys," said D'Antoni.

"I thought they came in with a lack of focus, especially on the defensive end and it carried over on the offensive end. We didn't play well.

"I just thought the whole game we didn't have the right focus for a team that plays well. Steve Clifford has them [Orlando] playing really well.

"We got 10 points, 10 points, 10 points up and let them hang around and we didn't have the right amount of focus and you get beat. Hopefully we'll learn from it."

Harden was keen not to dwell on his shooting struggles, insisting that defense was the greater issue for the Rockets.

He said: "[The threes] just didn't go in. It's not even about offense though, defensively we weren't locked in enough and we gave up 70 points or something [actually 64] in the second half. We scored enough points to win.

"We didn't have our [defensive] focus level like the last few weeks.

"We don't have the margin of error. We've got to come in locked in from the beginning of the game for all four quarters. You give a team like this some confidence and open shots, and they made them. It's pretty simple."

James Harden believes he is probably playing the best basketball of his career after making history in the Houston Rockets' win over the Memphis Grizzlies on New Year's Eve

The reigning MVP ended 2018 by becoming the first player to score 35 points or more and provide at least five assists in eight consecutive NBA games.

Harden put on another dazzling show at Toyota Center, scoring 43 points, laying on 13 assists and clutching 10 rebounds in a 113-101 victory.

The irrepressible guard replied "probably" with a smile when asked if he feels he is performing better than ever.

Harden added: "I'm just being aggressive, I'm just in attack mode.

"They tried to shake some things up tonight and run a double team at me and whatnot. I did a poor job of just not controlling the basketball, basically giving them transition points on my turnover.

"I've got to take care of the ball more, but just continue to be aggressive and make plays for my team."

Mike D'Antoni lavished praise on his star man after another outstanding showing.

"He could have had 60 [points] tonight if we had spaced him out a little bit and he didn't have to come back so early in the fourth quarter and in different circumstances." said the Rockets head coach 

"He's just got a mastery of the game. They're double teaming him and we just get our guys by. That won't happen most of the time."

Quizzed if Harden is playing better than ever, he added: "I haven't seen his whole life, but in the last three years... I don't know how you get any better than what he's playing.

"Defensively too, offensively, he comes up with steals, triple double like's it's nothing. He's playing a different level."

Mike D'Antoni feels James Harden has reached a level not seen before after the reigning MVP led the Houston Rockets to a Christmas Day win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden's 41 points ensured the Rockets won 113-109 at home to give the Thunder (21-12) a second consecutive narrow defeat, in what was one of the NBA's five marquee festive fixtures.

The 29-year-old has now scored at least 30 points in seven straight matches, the first player to do so since Russell Westbrook recorded a run of eight in November 2016.

Despite Harden's past achievements in the game, Rockets coach D'Antoni does not think he has seen him perform with such quality.

"We've got a lot of guys playing at a high level right now," he told reporters. "So many guys contributed. We try not to get too ahead of ourselves, but [we are] playing better.

"James, like I said, is up to another level that I don't know maybe he's been there before. It's hard to tell once he gets to that altitude, but he's playing great."

"Clint Capela has gone up a level I think from last year," D'Antoni added of the in-form center who had 23 rebounds, setting a new record for Christmas Day fixtures.

"We are a more complete team, and we can handle adversity with Chris [Paul] being out and James Ennis being out because now we have more of a slate of players."

And Rockets debutant Austin Rivers was relieved he no longer has to guard Harden.

"No more step-backs, now I just get to smile," he said after a 10-point appearance off the bench.

"He did a couple, man, I was just like, 'Goodness gracious'. He's the best offensive player in the NBA with the ball in his hands. There's nobody like him."

After a miserable start to the season, the Rockets have now won seven of eight, improving their record to 18-15.

Harden said: "[Our] record isn't where we want it to be, but it's getting there.

"We're preparing for a postseason. We're not going to be at our tip-top right now, which is a great thing, so we've got something to build to. We've had that confidence all year."

Westbrook narrowly missed a triple-double with 21 points, nine assists and nine rebounds, while Paul George had 28 points and 14 rebounds.

"We had some bad bounces which got them a couple of extra possessions which got them some open 3s," reflected George.

The Houston Rockets did everything possible to make Carmelo Anthony's role work, according to coach Mike D'Antoni.

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