Harden nets 40 as Thunder down Suns

James Harden scored a career-high 40 points as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Phoenix Suns, 109-97, at US Airways Center.

Kevin Durant added 29 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, while Russell Westbrook contributed 15 points for the Thunder, who won for the fifth time in seven games.

Oklahoma City remains a half game back of San Antonio for the top spot in the Western Conference after the Spurs also won on Wednesday.

Jared Dudley netted 21 points to pace Phoenix, which lost for the third time in five games and sits a half game behind Utah for the eighth seed in the West with four games to play.

The Suns opened the game with a 19-6 run to take early control, but Oklahoma City responded with a 23-6 swing over the final six-plus minutes of the first quarter to carry a 29-25 edge into the second.

A back-and-forth second quarter saw five lead changes and three ties until Harden's three-pointer sparked a 13-2 spurt by the Thunder to give them a 50-41 lead with about two minutes remaining in the half and Oklahoma City would never trail again, holding a 52-45 advantage at the break.

The Suns stayed within striking distance in the third and managed to close the gap to one on two separate occasions in the frame, but Harden answered each time with a big shot to keep the Thunder on top.

The first came just past the midpoint of the frame when a pair of free throws by Channing Frye made it a 62-61 game before Harden's three-point play gave Oklahoma City some breathing room.

Steve Nash was later fouled while shooting a trey and connected on all three foul shots to bring Phoenix within 73-72 with 2:21 left in the third, but Harden dropped in a three-pointer after Josh Childress' potential go-ahead triple was no good to stave off the Suns.

The Thunder held an 82-77 lead entering the fourth quarter and pulled away for good with an early 19-4 run that Harden finished off with his fifth three- pointer of the contest, giving Oklahoma City a 101-86 cushion.

Phoenix got no closer than 11 for the remainder of the game.

Game Notes

Phoenix had a ceremony during halftime in which they placed former head coach John MacLeod in their Ring of Honor. MacLeod coached the Suns from 1973-87 and led them to a 579-543 record...The Thunder have won six straight meetings against the Suns...Frye finished with 13 points while Nash had 12 in a losing effort.