Miami: Russell Westbrook scored 31 points and James Harden added 24 Sunday to rally the Houston Rockets over NBA overall leader Milwaukee Bucks 120-116 despite a big night for Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Bucks led 112-104 after Khris Middleton’s three-pointer with 3:14 to play, but Houston closed the game with a 16-4 run.
“It’s amazing,” Westbrook said. “We fought through. Adversity showed up and we showed off. All the guys in our locker room showed up to play for 48 minutes.” The Rockets went 21-of-61 from three-point range, matching an NBA record for the most three-point attempts by a club in a non-overtime game, with Danuel House hitting four and Harden among five other players who landed three from outside the arc.
“You have to make the right reads and trust your teammates and that’s what I tried to do all night long,” said Westbrook.
The Rockets also rallied from seven points down in the final minute to defeat Dallas on Friday.
Westbrook, on a career-best run of 36 consecutive games with 20 or more points, hit 10-of-21 from the floor, 1-of-3 from beyond the arc, and 10-of-12 free throws. Harden had six steals, seven rebounds and seven assists.
Greek big man Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 36 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists. Middleton had 27 points and 12 rebounds and Brook Lopez added 23 points and 12 rebounds.
“We’ve got to keep executing at the end of close games,” Antetokounmpo said. “We weren’t able to do that. We’ve got to find the open man and hit more shots.” The Rockets improved to 42-24, level with Utah for fourth in the Western Conference and only one game behind Denver, while the Bucks fell to 54-13, still the best record in the NBA and six games better than Toronto to top the Eastern Conference.
In the other feature of the day, Jayson Tatum scored 34 points and Jaylen Brown added 30 to spark the Boston Celtics over Portland 128-124.
Gordon Hayward added 22 points for the Celtics, including two crucial free throws with three seconds to play to help seal a Boston win after squandering a 24-point advantage.
Boston opened the game by making 9-of-12 shots, five of them for three points, for a 26-15 lead and stretched their advantage from there before the Trail Blazers rallied.
Portland’s Damian Lillard had 30 points and 16 assists while Jusuf Nurkic added 30 points and nine rebounds for the Trail Blazers.
The San Antonio Spurs, powered by 21 points and 10 rebounds from Dejounte Murray, edged eighth-place Memphis in a Western Conference game.
DeMar DeRozan completed a 108-106 win by sinking two free throws with one second remaining, the last of his 14 points. Grizzlies rookie star Ja Morant had 25 points and nine assists in a losing cause.
The Memphis loss ensured a playoff spot for the Dallas Mavericks even before they took the court for a 117-115 loss to the Phoenix Suns. It will be the first Dallas post-season appearance since 2016.
Phoenix’s Devin Booker scored 30 points and Ricky Rubio added 20, both hitting key free throws in the final minutes to preserve the Suns’ lead.
Luka Doncic led Dallas with 40 points while Kristaps Porzingis added 30 for the Mavericks.
Caris LeVert scored 34 points, 14 of them in the last seven minutes, to spark the Brooklyn Nets over Washington 118-110.
Jarrett Allen had 22 points and 15 rebounds and Joe Harris scored a season-high 27 points for Brooklyn, which moved seven games ahead of the ninth-place Washington in the Eastern Conference.
The Wizards must be within four games of eighth to force a play-in series and they have only six games remaining.
Orlando stayed half a game ahead of Brooklyn by routing Sacramento 132-116 behind 25 points from Terrence Ross plus 23 points and 11 rebounds from Nikola Vucevic.
The Magic’s victory joy was dampened by a third-quarter left leg injury to Jonathan Isaac, who had just worked his way back from a left knee injury. He exited the court in a wheelchair.