Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - James Harden scored a game-high 33 points as the Houston Rockets held off the Milwaukee Bucks 117-111 on Friday.
Trevor Ariza finished with 24 points, six rebounds and three steals, Josh Smith supplied 14 points and 10 boards and Donatas Motiejunas netted 14 on 6- of-8 shooting for the Rockets, who have won six of their last seven games.
"We made enough plays and kept them at bay," Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. "We did some good things tonight."
Houston also improved to 5-1 since star center Dwight Howard suffered a right knee injury against the Suns on Jan. 23. He is expected to miss at least four weeks with the injury.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had a career night as he set new highs with 27 points and 15 rebounds. Jerryd Bayless and Jorge Guiterrez each totaled 13 points for Milwaukee, which had its five-game winning streak come to an end.
"We had our opportunities," said Bucks head coach Jason Kidd. "I'm proud of the guys. We made a game of it."
Bayless whittled the deficit down to 103-96 as his driving layup completed a 12-2 swing with 5:38 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Brandon Knight hit a jumper and Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton each made a pair of free throws to get the Bucks within 105-102 with four minutes to play.
Antetokounmpo provided two baskets around two Harden foul shots for a 112-108 score with 31.5 seconds to go. Patrick Beverley split a pair from the charity stripe and Corey Brewer made both of his shots, but Bayless responded with a jump shot to keep it a two-possession game with 18.2 left.
Brewer's two foul shots with 11.3 seconds to play sealed the win.
In the first quarter, Harden knocked down a 3 and his driving jumper ended a 16-2 run, giving the Rockets a 27-12 advantage. Houston led 36-23 after 12 minutes of play.
Smith and Ariza made treys around Bayless' floater to open the second quarter and after a brief Milwaukee surge, Brewer and Terrence Jones hit back-to-back jumpers to ignite an 8-0 run that ended on Motiejunas' dunk for a 54-36 lead midway through the frame.
Ersan Ilyasova provided two layups with under a minute to play, but the Rockets led 68-56 at halftime.
Jared Dudley followed Antetokounmpo's dunk with a trey to cut the deficit to 81-74 with 5:22 left in the third, but Harden scored four straight points and Jones' slam made it a 96-82 game heading into the final stanza.
The Rockets have won four straight games against the Bucks, including a 117-103 victory on Nov. 29 ... Milwaukee made just 4-of-17 (23.5 percent) of its attempts from 3-point range ... The Bucks owned a 60-46 advantage in the paint.