James Harden makes go-ahead basket, game-saving steal as Rockets down skidding Nuggets
James Harden had the game-winning basket and sealed the win with a steal. AP

JAMES Harden scored the game-winning shot and swiped the match-saving steal at the other end to cap off a 39-point, 11-assist and 4-steal performance as the Houston Rockets foiled a late rally by the Denver Nuggets, 125-124, on Monday night (Tuesday, Manila time).

A 3-pointer by Harden with 1:28 left in the game gave the Rockets a five-point lead, 123-118 but Will Barton countered from downtown which he followed up with a 3-point play to give Denver the lead 124-123.    

Harden’s basket with two seconds remaining forced Denver to call a timeout. He then stole the ball on a pass from Nikola Jokic on the inbounds play.  

Both teams enjoyed hot shooting from the outside, with Houston hitting 17-of-38 3-pointers versus the Nuggets’ 12-of-29 triples.

Sixth man Eric Gordon scored 18 points for the Rockets, which saw all five starters score in double figures in its second straight win. Patrick Beverley and Trevor Ariza both scored 14.     

Barton had 24 points and eight assists off the bench for Denver while Jokic finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists.     

Houston led by as much as 13 points in the first quarter before the Nuggets recovered and led for much of the second and the third periods.

With a 49-22 record, Houston is holding on to the third spot in the West behind San Antonio while Denver’s second loss in a row puts them one game ahead of a surging Portland team for the eighth seed in the West.

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