Harden (flu) saves Rockets with triple-double

Calvin Watkins, ESPN.com

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    Calvin Watkins covers the Houston Rockets and the NBA for ESPN.com. He joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He’s covered the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers as well as colleges, boxing and high school sports.
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HOUSTON — Maybe it was the socks.

Houston Rockets guard James Harden slipped on some black and yellow socks from the legendary hip-hop group Wu Tang Clan after he recorded his first career playoff triple-double in his team’s season-saving 124-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night.

Harden needed everything he could get to play because he was suffering from the flu and needed an IV the morning of the game.

  • The Rockets head to Los Angeles looking for a win in Game 6, confident they could deliver the series winner if they get back to Houston.

  • With the Rockets playing with a more desperate edge, the Clippers saw their chance for an early end to the series go awry in Game 5.

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“I was alright,” Harden said softly, who wouldn’t disclose what his temperature was. “We won, so that’s all that matters.”

When he left the interview room he received a hug from team owner Leslie Alexander as his bodyguard held four bottles of water.

It was a well-deserved hug because Harden hasn’t taken over a game in this seven-game series that is now 3-2 in favor of the Clippers, until this moment.

Tuesday night, Harden scored 26 points, snagged 11 rebounds and had 10 assists in the victory. In the Game 4 loss, Harden was moved off the ball with an attempt to get him touches through screens in a half-court game.

Things changed in Game 5 as Harden went back to the main ball handler on several possessions and drove the lane and attempted shots with more of a force than he did in previous games.

It seemed Harden played much better despite being sick.

“He wasn’t feeling well all day,” coach Kevin McHale said. “He wasn’t feeling well at shootaround. He had a triple-double tonight and he had a hell of a game. He had an IV this afternoon and he played a great game for us and we needed it.”

After Harden was taken out of the game with 1:45 to play, he went directly to the locker room.

He walked gingerly around the locker room once it was open to reporters and spoke quietly in the interview room.

“We knew it was a win or go home,” he said. “We had a great opportunity in front of our home crowd to regain our swagger, and we did that from the beginning of the game. They kind of embarrassed us twice in L.A., so we knew we would play a lot better and we did tonight.”

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