Rockets extend winning streak to 17, beat Bucks

  • Houston Rockets' James Harden drives past Milwaukee Bucks' Jabari Parker during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

MILWAUKEE — The Houston Rockets had trouble at times holding on to the ball and keeping up with the young Milwaukee Bucks.

But as long as the Rockets keep hitting their 3-pointers, they’re pretty hard to beat.

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James Harden scored 26 points, Eric Gordon had 18 points and two momentum-swinging 3s in the third quarter, and Houston beat Milwaukee 110-99 on Wednesday night for its 17th straight win.

The Rockets passed the Boston Celtics for the longest winning streak in the NBA this season. Houston hasn’t lost since Jan. 26 at New Orleans.

“We find ways to win,” Harden said. “It’s not going to be the same way every game.”

The latest victory came on the second of a tough back-to-back stretch of road games that started with a 10-point victory at Oklahoma City. No wonder the Rockets looked sluggish at times against the Bucks.

And yet the Rockets still led by 10 for most of the fourth quarter until a late surge by the Bucks sliced the lead to 104-99 with 1:06 left on rookie Sterling Brown’s layup.

Chris Paul answered with a short floater in the lane with 45 seconds left after driving on Jason Terry to silence Bucks fans who were pleading “Defense! Defense!”

Houston obliged after forcing the Bucks to waste 15 seconds on the ensuing inbounds pass and settle for an off-balance 3 that missed. The Rockets led comfortably from there.

“There were a few 50-50 balls or offensive rebounds that we needed to secure that if we do, it gives us an opportunity to run,” Bucks coach Joe Prunty said. “If we run, then maybe we can put them on their heels … but the ball needs to move.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points. Khris Middleton finished with 18 points for Milwaukee, while Brown had a career-high 15.

Paul had 16 points and 11 assists for the Rockets, who answered every Bucks charge.

Milwaukee used an 11-0 run to get to within 73-69 with 3:25 left on Brown’s corner 3. The Bucks did most of their damage during the spurt around the bucket, with Antetokounmpo leading the way in the post.

The NBA’s most prolific 3-point shooting team countered with another display of clutch perimeter shooting.

The Rockets would beat the Bucks down the floor to set up open shots on the wing. Gordon knocked down two 3s, and P.J. Tucker added another 3 to help Houston close the third with a 14-7 run for an 87-76 lead.

“With a win streak like this you are doing a lot of things the right way,” Gordon said. “We still play for each other. We knew this was going to be a tough road trip.”

Houston got off to a sloppy start at the Bradley Center with a seven-turnover first quarter, a night after tying its season high with 22 turnovers in the 10-point win at Oklahoma City.

The end of the first half offered a glimpse of what was still to come. Harden hit a deep 3 just before the halftime buzzer from well beyond the arc with a defender in his face for a 58-46 lead.

“We’ve just got to stick with the game plan, close out, run them off the (3-point) line,” Brown said.

RAPTORS 121,

PISTONS 119, OT

DETROIT — DeMar DeRozan scored 42 points, then fed Fred VanVleet for the tiebreaking jumper from the left corner with 1.1 seconds remaining in overtime to lift Toronto past Detroit.

The Raptors became the first NBA team to clinch a playoff berth this season.

With the score tied late in overtime, Detroit’s Reggie Bullock missed from the perimeter. DeRozan pushed the ball up the court and found VanVleet open in the corner. His shot from just inside the 3-point line gave Toronto the lead. Blake Griffin had 31 points for Detroit.

CAVALIERS 113, NUGGETS 108

DENVER — LeBron James scored 39 points, including nine down the stretch, and dished out 10 assists as Cleveland beat Denver after squandering a 16-point lead.

James made one off-balanced shot after another in the waning minutes to turn back the Nuggets, who didn’t take their first lead of the game until 8:35 remaining on a driving layup by Mason Plumlee. Jeff Green gave Cleveland the lead for good with a 3-pointer on a play set up by James after he tapped a loose ball out to him.

James wound up two rebounds shy of a triple-double as the Cavs began a six-game trip in fine fashion.

Nikola Jokic had 36 points and 13 rebounds for the Nuggets, who lost for the second straight night. They dropped a costly game at Dallas on Tuesday as they try to cling to a playoff spot.

PELICANS 114,

KINGS 101

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Anthony Davis scored 17 points before rolling his left ankle and leaving in the third quarter, and New Orleans beat Sacramento to match a franchise record with its 10th straight win.

Davis went down after battling Kosta Koufos for a rebound. The five-time All-Star winced and grabbed at his ankle before slowly getting to his feet. Davis remained in the game briefly before being taken to the Pelicans locker room with 3:11 left in the third. He did not return. X-rays were negative.

Nikola Mirotic scored 26 points on 10-of-12 shooting to go with 10 rebounds, Jrue Holiday had 23 points and eight assists, and E’Twaun Moore added 15 points.

Buddy Hield had 20 points while Zach Randolph added 19 points and five rebounds for Sacramento.

JAZZ 104, PACERS 84

INDIANAPOLIS — Rudy Gobert had 23 points and 14 rebounds, and Donovan Mitchell added 20 points and six assists in Utah’s victory over Indiana.

The Jazz improved to 15-2 over their last 17 games. Ricky Rubio gad 18 points and seven assists for Utah, and reserve Jae Crowder added 16 points.

Myles Turner led Indiana with 24 points.

LAKERS 108, MAGIC 107

LOS ANGELES — Brook Lopez scored 27 points and hit two free throws with 0.6 seconds to play, and Los Angeles blew a nine-point lead in the final 90 seconds before rallying back to beat Orlando.

The game ended with a curious officiating decision. When the Magic inbounded the ball at midcourt after Lopez’s free throws, the Staples Center clock apparently started before anyone had touched the ball. But after video review, the officials ruled the teams must have a jump ball at center court, effectively preventing the Magic from getting a final chance to win.

Aaron Gordon scored 28 points and made a driving, go-ahead layup with 5 seconds to play for the Magic, who trailed 106-97 before scoring 10 straight points. Lopez drew a foul while backing into the low post with 0.6 seconds left, and he coolly made both free throws.

Gordon added 14 rebounds, while Nikola Vucevic had 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Magic, who have lost nine of 11.

BULLS 119,

GRIZZLIES 110

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CHICAGO — Lauri Markkanen scored 22 points, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn added 21 apiece and Chicago handed Memphis its 15th straight loss,

Memphis’ Dillon Brooks scored 20 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter.