(SportsNetwork.com) - With a playoff spot already locked up, the Houston Rockets can focus on postseason positioning when they open a three-game road trip Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Rockets will makes stops in Denver and Minnesota on this trip and have a 20-17 record on the road. They are currently fourth in the Western Conference, sitting two games ahead of Portland and three behind the L.A. Clippers.
Houston posted its seventh win in 10 tries with Sunday's 130-125 overtime triumph against the Nuggets. James Harden scored 15 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, while Chandler Parsons scored eight points in the extra session and finished with 15 for the Rockets, who clinched a playoff berth in Friday's win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Harden scored 10 points in the final 3:55 of the fourth as part of a 16-3 quarter-closing run to help force overtime. Harden tied the game with 7.1 seconds left in regulation for Houston, which scored 13 of the 21 in OT.
"Well we battled," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. "We were not ready starting that game off. Our guys kept battling and James (Harden) made the huge 3 to get it to overtime, but other than that we were shaky."
Harden is averaging 31.1 points in his last eight games.
Dwight Howard (ankle) missed another game and is questionable Tuesday. Omer Asik has been filling in nicely for Howard and is posting an average of 12.0 points and 16.8 rebounds in his last five games -- all starts. He has three double-doubles in that stretch.
A disappointing season for the Lakers couldn't end any sooner, but they still have five games left.
Los Angeles is 25-52 on the season and has lost four in a row and 13 of the last 17 games. In Sunday's 120-97 blowout loss to the rival Clippers, Jordan Hill had 22 points and nine rebounds to lead the way. Nick Young scored 17 of his 18 points in the first half and was bothered by a balky knee.
"We battled," said Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni. "We didn't have enough to win today. They focused more. They upped the ante and got us."
Jodie Meeks had 17 points in defeat. L.A. was outrebounded by a 52-38 margin and committed 15 turnovers, leading to 24 Clippers points.
Hill, meanwhile, is averaging 16.9 points and 9.8 rebounds in his last eight games -- all starts.
The Lakers are opening a three-game homestand Tuesday versus Houston, Golden State and Memphis, and are 14-24 as the host.
Lakers guard Kent Bazemore (foot) is done for the year and center Pau Gasol is expected to miss another game with vertigo. Gasol hasn't played since April 1 and has missed several games over the past few weeks. Guard Steve Nash (back) is probable versus the Rockets.
Nash needs five assists to pass Mark Jackson for third on the NBA's all-time list. Only John Stockton (15,806), Jason Kidd (12,091) and Jackson (10,334) have dished out more assists than Nash (10,330).
Houston is 2-1 against the Lakers this season, but has lost six of the previous eight as the guest in this series.