Houston Rockets star Russell Westbrook surpassed Magic Johnson on the NBA's all-time triple-doubles list.

Westbrook posted his 139th career triple-double on Saturday to move into second position, leapfrogging Los Angeles Lakers great Johnson.

An eight-time All-Star and 2017 MVP, Westbrook posted 28 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds as the Rockets beat the New Orleans Pelicans 126-123.

Westbrook now trails only Oscar Robertson (181) on that list as he eyes more history.

Giannis Antetokounmpo described his Milwaukee Bucks team-mates as "amazing" for closing out a 117-111 victory over the Houston Rockets after he fouled out on Thursday.

Reigning MVP Antetokounmpo picked up his sixth foul when the Bucks were leading by six points with five minutes and 18 seconds remaining in their first NBA game of 2019-20 at Toyota Center.

The Greek helped Milwaukee overturn a 16-point half-time deficit by posting 30 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, making him the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1966 to post a 30-point triple-double in a season opener.

Antetokounmpo feels the Bucks took a significant step forward by holding on for the win in his enforced absence.

"I was p***** [to foul out], I'm not gonna lie," he said. "Obviously, a stupid sixth foul - I got under [Clint] Capela. I could have avoided it, but it's an opener and you're so excited. But as a basketball player you have to control your excitement.

"They did an amazing job [to hold on for the win]. Moved the ball, knocked down shots. Brook [Lopez] executed from the post, knocked down shots and made the right plays, so they did an amazing job.

"It feels amazing. Being down 16 and able to come back and nobody was complaining, everyone was focused on the game - at no point did it feel like we gave up. We played harder, defended harder, executed harder and it's game number one. This can only make you better.

"The chemistry is amazing. We need to keep working on that, and you're going to find adversities throughout the season. But at the end of the day, you've got to face moments like this because moments like this make you better."

Russell Westbrook poured in 24 points to go with 16 rebounds, seven assists and two steals on his Rockets debut, while James Harden had 19 points and 14 assists.

Seven-time All-Star Harden shouldered the blame for the loss and hopes to rediscover his usual "swagger" quickly.

"I didn't play well offensively the entire night. Give them credit, they came back and played well that second half but this one is on me. I wasn't as aggressive enough and that's what it was," said Harden.

"It's the first game of the season so I've got to get my rhythm as well. I wish I would just go out there and make every shot, have my swagger like I will be. It will come."

Westbrook added: "I've got to do a better job of helping [Harden] out. Especially when teams we're playing are guarding him like that. That's why I'm here; to make a better career for him, so he doesn't have to create and do everything like he's accustomed to doing.

"When that happens, we've got to do a better job of figuring it out, [we] kind of waited too late to do that."

The Golden State Warriors' first NBA game at Chase Center ended in defeat as the Kawhi Leonard-led Los Angeles Clippers stayed unbeaten.

After 47 years at Oracle Arena in Oakland, the Warriors relocated to neighbouring San Francisco in the offseason.

But their first competitive game in San Francisco did not go according to plan following Thursday's 141-122 loss to the Clippers.

Even without Paul George, the Clippers looked great on both sides of the court as Leonard, Lou Williams and Patrick Patterson all finished with 20 or more points to preserve Los Angeles' perfect start after two games.

Stephen Curry and D'Angelo Russell were good for the Warriors, but Russell did not do much after scoring the Warriors' first 10 points and Curry struggled shooting the ball throughout the game, going two of 11 from three-point range.

Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, became the first player in Milwaukee Bucks history to record a triple-double in a season opener.

Antetokounmpo – the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1966 with a 30-point triple-double in a season opener – finished with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists as the Bucks overcame a 16-point half-time deficit to beat the Houston Rockets 117-111.

Every single Milwaukee starter finished in double digits in scoring, while Russell Westbrook led the Rockets with 24 points and 16 rebounds in his Houston debut. 

 

Young stars as Hawks fly high

Trae Young had 38 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the Atlanta Hawks' 117-100 win over the Detroit Pistons.

 

Reddish and Harden struggle

Cam Reddish's rookie year is off to a tough shooting start. He scored one point on 0-of-six shooting, including 0 of five from three-point range. He did have seven rebounds, though.

James Harden scored 19 points, but the Rockets star went two-of-13 shooting in the loss to the Bucks.

 

Harden and Westbrook reunite

Harden and Westbrook look like they will at least be fun together in Houston.

 

Thursday's results

Atlanta Hawks 117-100 Detroit Pistons
Milwaukee Bucks 117-111 Houston Rockets
Los Angeles Clippers 141-122 Golden State Warriors

 

Jazz at Lakers

Two teams that added big pieces this offseason face off in Los Angeles on Friday. Mike Conley joins Donovan Mitchell in the Utah Jazz's backcourt, while Anthony Davis teams up with LeBron James and the Lakers. And that is not even the half of it as Danny Green, Bojan Bogdanovic (who may be hurt), Quinn Cook and Dwight Howard are all finding their way with new teams. 

Russell Westbrook and James Harden will be team-mates once again in this NBA season, and the Houston Rockets pair have certainly evolved since their days together at the Oklahoma City Thunder.

It has been seven years since Westbrook and Harden wore the same NBA uniform, a series-deciding Game 5 loss to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals when the duo each scored 19 points.

Harden's contribution came from the bench - as it often did that season - and he soon moved to Houston to become the main man, a distinction he will be expected to keep despite Westbrook's arrival this offseason.

Here, using Stats Perform data, we look at how productive Westbrook and Harden were together in OKC, and how their roles have changed since.

 

A PRODUCTIVE PARTNERSHIP

In their final year together with the Thunder in 2011-12, Westbrook had the best season of his career in terms of field goal percentage (45.7 per cent), while Harden had what remains his best campaign in terms of both field goal percentage (49.1 per cent) and three-pointers made (39 per cent).

Ten-time All-Star Kevin Durant was on the roster then too, of course, but a deeper dive into the numbers shows just how much better offensively the Thunder were in that campaign when Westbrook and Harden shared the floor.

Per 100 possessions, they averaged more points (113.8 to 102.8), more offensive rebounds (13.2 to 10.2), more assists (19.4 to 19.2) and scored more points off fast breaks (17.7 to 16.0).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a drop-off defensively when Westbrook and Harden were on court together, as OKC conceded more points on average per 100 possessions (103.4 to 97.8).

HARDEN: FROM SIXTH MAN TO MAIN MAN

In the 2011-12 season, Harden's last with the Thunder, 'The Beard' was voted the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year for his performances off the bench, when he averaged 16.8 points per game.

That first year in Houston, Harden averaged a whopping 25.9 points per game – the increase of 9.1 representing the fourth-largest jump of all time among players who switched teams after averaging at least 15 points per game in the previous season.

Moreover, among all Sixth Man of the Year winners, Harden has the five highest scoring seasons of all time - including last term, when he poured in 2,818 points in 78 games at a staggering average of 36.1.

ALL-ROUND RUSS

It was after Durant's departure for the Golden State Warriors in 2016 when Westbrook ascended from second fiddle to superstar.

Westbrook's numbers greatly improved in his first year without Harden and Durant. He averaged 31.6 points per game (up from 23.5 in the previous season), 10.7 rebounds per game (up from 7.8 in the previous season) and 10.4 assists per game (the same as the previous season).

That season - when Westbrook was named the league's MVP - he averaged a triple-double, a feat he also achieved in the following two campaigns, despite Paul George's presence on the Thunder's roster between 2017 and 2019.

Last season, Westbrook only tried 28.7 shots per 100 possessions when George was out, down from 35 attempts in 2017-18.

Russell Westbrook "will be alright" after his injury scare for the Houston Rockets, while coach Mike D'Antoni was stunned by another sublime performance from James Harden.

Harden had 44 points, seven assists, five rebounds and five steals in 35 minutes as the Rockets finished their preseason campaign with a 144-133 road win over the Miami Heat.

Point guard Westbrook left Friday's game in the fourth quarter in visible pain and ran directly into the tunnel after hurting his hand, while Austin Rivers suffered with a shoulder problem.

D'Antoni explained Westbrook, who scored 16 points, had suffered a finger dislocation just two days after the same thing happened in Wednesday's game with the San Antonio Spurs, which had meant he played this one with a bandage.

The Rockets begin the NBA season at home against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.

"With Russ it was just his fingers got dislocated," said D'Antoni. "Pop them back into place and then go play, he'll be alright.

"Both of them told me they were OK, so we'll take that. Austin said he was OK, I don't know exactly what that means but it is up in his [shoulder] – he also strained that in Washington last year."

The Rockets ended the preseason with a 4-2 record and hopes for a championship challenge are high after former Oklahoma City Thunder team-mates Harden and Westbrook were reunited in the offseason.

D'Antoni was lost for words by Harden's display against the Heat. He connected with 8-of-16 three-pointers and played like it was game seven of the NBA Finals.

"That's the way he's wired - he loves to play," added D'Antoni. "I couldn't take him out in the fourth quarter if I wanted to. He wanted to play and he'd play 48 minutes if he could.  

"James was ridiculous. He gets better every time. I don't know what his ceiling is but he seems to be the most improved player of the year for me, he's ridiculous."

Harden, meanwhile, was eager to get the regular season started after being asked for his initial feelings about how playing with Westbrook again had been.

"Great," the 2018 MVP said. "Now preseason is over with and we get to the real thing. It's gonna be a long season of just trying to communicate and be on the same page, not only me and Russ - our entire team. 

"This preseason was a good test for us, now we're excited for the real challenge."

Asked if this was the most powerful Rockets team since he had been with the franchise, Harden added: "Yeah, I think so."

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