With the aid of James Harden’s 41-point night, the Rockets have won 12 straight games, beating the Denver Nuggets 119-114 Sunday night at the Pepsi Center.
Along with the 41 points, Harden gave the Rockets eight rebounds and seven assists. He shot 11-of-20 from the field, 6-of-10 from behind the 3-point line, and 13-of-16 from the charity stripe as the Rockets improved to 46-13, the best record in the NBA.
Houston never trailed in the game, with Harden scoring 17 points in a first quarter that saw the Rockets lead 38-25 when it ended, and in the second quarter, Chris Paul followed P.J. Tucker’s 3-pointer with a layup to build the lead to 18, forcing a Nuggets timeout. That was the Rockets biggest lead of the night, but the game was never really in doubt, despite a couple of Denver comeback bids.
Denver pulled to within 7 at three different points in the second quarter, but the Rockets still led 66-52 at the break. Harden’s 27 points led all scorers, while Paul scored 11.
The teams traded 3-pointers to start the second half, but a 10-2 Nuggets run brought them within six, only to see Trevor Ariza and Harden knock down triples, and the Rockets took a 92-79 lead into the fourth quarter.
Joe Johnson started the final period with a hook shot, but Denver scored back-to-back buckets to get within 11. The Rockets scored the next six points to get the lead back to 17, however, Nikola Jokic capped an 18-6 run over the next 5:28, getting the Nuggets within two possessions. The closest they could get was four points as Harden delivered the death blow when he drained a 23-foot step-back over Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, pushing the lead back to eight.
Paul scored 23 points, while Ariza chipped in 14. The Rockets connected on 15 shots from behind the 3-point line.
Will Barton’s 25-points led Denver, while Jokic scored 21 and Murray 19.
The loss drops the Nuggets to 33-27.
The Rockets will look for their 13th straight win Monday in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz.