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Green, Rockets spoil Harden's return to lineup in double-OT thriller

Carmen Mandato / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden returned to the starting lineup for Monday's matchup versus the Houston Rockets, but it was his former club that got the last laugh.

Second-year guard Jalen Green posted 27 points and seven assists as the Rockets outlasted the 76ers 132-123 in double overtime on Monday evening at the Toyota Center.

Kevin Porter Jr. added 24 points and third-overall draft pick Jabari Smith contributed 16 points and 11 rebounds for the 7-17 Rockets.

Sixers center Joel Embiid led all scorers with 39 points on 12-of-21 shooting and Tobias Harris chipped in with 27 points highlighted by 7-of-8 shooting from behind the arc.

Harden showed signs of rust in his first game since Nov. 2, finishing with 21 points on 4-of-19 shooting to go along with seven assists and seven turnovers.

Although Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers said Harden's playing time would be restricted, the 33-year-old still played 38 minutes.

Harden missed the previous 14 contests with a tendon strain in his right foot. Philadelphia went 8-6 during the 10-time All-Star's absence, a spell that also included injuries to fellow key contributors Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.

De'Anthony Melton filled in admirably, averaging 11.9 points, 5.2 boards, 3.8 assists, and 2.1 steals over his last 13 games in Harden's stead.

Harden was off to a strong start before suffering the injury, averaging 22 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds through nine appearances. The 76ers were scoring 3.4 more points per 100 possessions with the former MVP on the floor.

Philadelphia dropped to 12-12 after Monday's defeat, good for seventh in the Eastern Conference standings. Next up for Harden and Co. is the start of a seven-game homestand and a visit from LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

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