Andrew Wiggins scored a season-high 36 points on Saturday as the NBA champion Golden State Warriors got off to a hot start and made it hold up Saturday in a 120-101 victory over the Houston Rockets.
Wiggins drained a career-high eight three-pointers, five of them in the third quarter when he scored 17 points.
Warriors superstar Stephen Curry also had eight treys on the way to 30 points and Jordan Poole added 21 points as the Warriors notched a 10th straight home win.
But Warriors coach Steve Kerr said the defending champions still have room for improvement after letting a 25-point lead midway through the second quarter slip.
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The Rockets, led by 20 points from Kevin Porter Jr., had sliced the deficit to four points with 6:59 left in the game.
The Warriors pulled away again, but Kerr said they need to find a way to keep teams from making a run.
“It was a phenomenal first 18 minutes,” Kerr said. “I thought that was maybe the best stretch we’ve had all year to start the game.
“We were defending, rebounding, doing everything right, and then we just lost our focus.
“That’s our biggest challenge right now, trying to maintain our focus long enough not to give up leads and allow teams back in,” Kerr added.
Elsewhere, Dallas star Luka Doncic and Tim Hardaway Jr took it to the New York Knicks in the third quarter on the way to a 121-100 NBA victory at Madison Square Garden.
Doncic scored 30 points and Hardaway added 28 against his former team, the two combining for 36 points in the third quarter alone when the Mavs outscored the Knicks 41-15 to take control of the contest.
Doncic, the league’s leading scorer, had a lacklustre 11 points in the first quarter but turned up the heat after the interval.
“It was a challenge to come out of the locker room (in the second half) with more energy and better everything,” Doncic said. “The way we played the third quarter, you saw that we can really play basketball.”
Jalen Brunson, who departed Dallas for the Knicks in free agency after last season, finished with just 13 points.
Bucks bounce back
The Milwaukee Bucks earned a bounce-back win despite the absence of two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, beating the Hornets 105-96 in Charlotte.
A day after a hard-fought 133-129 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday were inactive, as was Khris Middleton – whose return from off-season wrist surgery is still being carefully managed.
Antetokounmpo, who scored 40 points against the Lakers, sat out with a sore left knee. Holiday was listed as out with a left knee contusion.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said he held them out considering “the quick turnaround and with the back-to-back, a little bit of an early game, and just taking into account the big picture.”
Bobby Portis stepped up to lead the Bucks with 20 points. Jordan Nwora added 17 points and Brook Lopez and Jevon Carter scored 14 apiece.
Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 33 points to lead seven Thunder players in double figures in a 135-128 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis.
Josh Giddey added 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Thunder, who trailed by four going into the fourth quarter after the Timberwolves erupted for 44 points in the third period.
D’Angelo Russell led Minnesota with 27 points and Anthony Edwards added 26. Timberwovles centre Rudy Gobert was ejected in the second quarter for a flagrant foul after he tripped Oklahoma City’s Kenrich Williams.
The two had tangled under the basket, Gobert tripping over the fallen Williams. Gobert fell himself and when Williams extricated himself and rose Gobert stuck his legs out and tripped him.
Williams’s angry reaction drew a technical foul.
In Los Angeles, Sacramento centre Domantas Sabonis connected on 10 of his 11 shots from the field on the way to a game-high 24 points, as the Kings whipped the Clippers 123-96.