Harden lights up Blazers for 44

– James Harden scored a season-high 44 points, helping the Houston Rockets cruise to a 110-95 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.

The Trail Blazers were without leading scorer and rebounder LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed the game because of an upper-respiratory illness, and had their five-game winning streak stopped.

Harden had 31 in the first half to help the Rockets take a 20-point halftime lead. It was Harden's third 40-point game this season, and this month.


•HEALTHY AS EVER: Derrick Rose scored 29 points, Jimmy Butler added 27 points and 11 rebounds, and the Chicago Bulls ended the Toronto Raptors' six-game winning streak with a 129-120 victory. Chicago got Rose (illness) and Taj Gibson (ankle injury) back after each missed two games. Rose scored 15 of the Bulls' franchise-record 49 points in the fourth quarter.

•PARKER SPARKS SPURS: Tony Parker scored 26 points in his return from a five-game absence, igniting the San Antonio Spurs to a season-high 37 assists and a 125-118 victory over the visiting Clippers. San Antonio shot 64 percent.

• HAWKS HANG ON: The visiting Hawks built a 24-point third-quarter lead before finishing off Dallas 105-102 for their fourth consecutive win.

•PAIR STINGS NUGGETS: Al Jefferson scored 22 points, Kemba Walker added 18 points and nine assists, and the Charlotte Hornets extended their winning streak to three games with a 110-82 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

•NO GROWL IN GRIZZLIES: Utah handed the Memphis Grizzlies their third loss in a row, 97-91. Alec Burks scored 23 points for the Jazz; Mike Conley led Memphis with 28 points.

•AVAILABLE: $54M MAN: The Detroit Pistons, in a youth-oriented move, released forward Josh Smith, who is in the second year of a four-year, $54 million contract.