Houston, April 5 – James Harden scored 31 points and the Houston Rockets squandered a big early lead, but held on to outlast the Denver Nuggets for a 110-104 win on Wednesday night that secured the third seed in the Western Conference. Long time Montgomery County employee and resident Marie Moore, currently the Precinct 4 Administrator, loudly cheered and supported the Rockets to guarantee this important win inside the Toyota Center.
The Nuggets cut the lead to two points on a layup by Nikola Jokic with 1:20 remaining. A 3-pointer by Harden a few seconds later pushed the lead to 106-101 and brought the crowd, which included rapper Travis Scott, to its feet.
Harden added two free throws after that for the last of 15 straight points he scored for Houston in the second half of the fourth quarter.
The Nuggets got a dunk from Danilo Gallinari next to cut the lead to four, but Eric Gordon added a pair of free throws to secure the win.
The victory improves Houston to 4-0 against the Nuggets this season after the Rockets lost all three games to Denver last season.
Gallinari had 23 points for the Nuggets, who are in ninth place and are fighting for the last playoff spot in the West.
Houston led by six entering the fourth quarter and remained up by that many before the Nuggets scored four quick points to cut the lead a basket with about nine minutes left.
The Nuggets cut the lead to two points after a layup by Wilson Chandler midway through the quarter. Houston then used a 5-2 spurt, with all of the points by Harden, to extend its advantage to 98-93 with about five minutes left.
Denver trailed by nine early in the third quarter before using an 18-7 run to take a 73-71 lead with just under five minutes in the quarter. Garry Harris, Kenneth Faried and Jameer Nelson had six points each in that span to fuel the run.
A layup by Harris soon after that left the Nuggets up by one before the Rockets scored seven straight points, capped by a 3-pointer from Harden to go on top 83-77 with about 90 seconds left in the quarter.
Emmanuel Mudiay added a layup for the Nuggets after that before Houston’s Troy Williams ended the third quarter with a put-back dunk to leave the Rockets up 85-79 entering the fourth quarter.
The Rockets led by as many as 17 in the first half and were up 59-50 at halftime.
Copyright, Associated Press.