HOUSTON — James Harden scored 39 points and the Houston Rockets ended a three-game skid and clinched their second straight playoff berth with a 111-107 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.
Kevin Durant scored 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his 40th straight game with at least 25 points, the longest streak since Michael Jordan also did it 40 consecutive times in 1986-87.
Durant’s 3-pointer cut Houston’s lead to one with 1:01 remaining, but Houston answered with four straight free throws. He made another 3 with 16 seconds left, but Harden made two free throws to push the lead to 111-107.
Harden was 17 of 20 from the line and had nine rebounds and seven assists.
The Rockets were playing without Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley, who both missed their fourth straight games. Howard has missed seven games recently because of a left ankle strain and Beverley is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Serge Ibaka tied a career high with 27 points in a game that Russell Westbrook didn’t play because the Thunder were playing the second night of a back-to-back.
Chandler Parsons added 23 points for Houston and Terrence Jones had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Oklahoma City was up by one before Houston scored seven straight points to take a 104-98 lead with less than three minutes left. The Rockets made four free throws before a 3-pointer by Francisco Garcia.
The Rockets started the fourth quarter with 3-pointers by Jeremy Lin, Isaiah Canaan and Harden for a 9-2 spurt which gave them a 91-86 lead with about 10 minutes left. Durant scored the next four points to get Oklahoma City within 91-90.
The Rockets got within two on a layup by Omer Asik. Oklahoma City then used an 11-5 run, with two 3s by Caron Butler, to push its lead to 84-76 with two minutes left in the third quarter.
Houston scored the last six points of the third quarter to cut the lead to 84-82 entering the fourth quarter.
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