James Harden scored 42 points Tuesday night the Rockets end the Portland Trailblazers 13-game win streak with a 115-111 win at the Moda Center.
It’s Harden’s 11th 40-point game of the season, and he got it by making 13-of-25 shots from the field, 5-of-7 from behind the 3-point line, and 11-of-15 free throws. He also added six rebounds and seven assists as the Rockets improve to 57-14 on the season, one win shy of the franchise record.
The game featured 17 lead changes, the last coming at the start of the fourth quarter, when Chris Paul knocked down a step-back three-pointer to give the Rockets an 88-86 lead. It was the first of three straight long distance makes to start the quarter as the Rockets made more than half (19) of their 36 attempts for the game.
Houston made seven 3-pointers in the game’s final period, but Portland shot close to 53 percent to keep the game in striking distance, but could never close the gap.
With five minutes to play, Damian Lillard’s layup make it a one-point game, but 12 seconds later, P.J. Tucker connected from three. Then with 3:49 left, a Mo Harkless reverse layup brought the Blazers within two, but 18 seconds later, Harden, after passing up a wide open look from three, drained a step back over the 7-foot tall Jusuf Nurkic. Portland came up empty on its next trip, and Trevor Ariza made the Blazers pay with a 3-pointer off a Tucker offensive rebound to give the Rockets an 8-point lead.
Following a Nurkic hook shot, Harden drained another three to make it a nine point game, the largest lead for either team, and while Portland scored seven straight to get within two, Paul knocked down a pair of free throws to ice the game. He finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
The win gives the Rockets a 4-game cushion over the Golden State Warriors for the NBA’s best record. Their magic number to clinch homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs is down to seven.
Al-Farouq Aminu led Portland with 22 points, 16 came in the first quarter. He knocked down six of his eight 3-point attempts. Nurkic scored 21 to go with 11 rebounds on 9-of-10 shooting, while Lillard gave the Blazers 20 points, though his 52-game streak of making at least one 3-pointer came to an end.
The ending of Portland’s longest win streak since 2007 drops it to 44-27.
The Rockets head home to start a 5-game homestand beginning Thursday night when the Detroit Pistons make their only visit of the season to Toyota Center.