HOUSTON – James Harden scored 39 points and the Houston Rockets ended a three-game skid and clinched their second straight playoff berth with a 111-107 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.
Kevin Durant scored 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his 40th straight game with at least 25 points, the longest streak since Michael Jordan also did it 40 consecutive times in 1986-87.
Durant's 3-pointer cut Houston's lead to one with 1:01 remaining, but Houston answered with four straight free throws. He made another 3 with 16 seconds left, but Harden made two free throws to push the lead to 111-107.
Harden was 17 of 20 from the line and had nine rebounds and seven assists.
The Rockets were playing without Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley, who both missed their fourth straight games. Howard has missed seven games recently because of a left ankle strain and Beverley is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Serge Ibaka tied a career high with 27 points in a game that Russell Westbrook didn't play because the Thunder were playing the second night of a back-to-back.
Chandler Parsons added 23 points for Houston and Terrence Jones had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Oklahoma City was up by one before Houston scored seven straight points to take a 104-98 lead with less than three minutes left. The Rockets made four free throws before a 3-pointer by Francisco Garcia.
The Rockets started the fourth quarter with 3-pointers by Jeremy Lin, Isaiah Canaan and Harden for a 9-2 spurt which gave them a 91-86 lead with about 10 minutes left. Durant scored the next four points to get Oklahoma City within 91-90.
The Rockets got within two on a layup by Omer Asik. Oklahoma City then used an 11-5 run, with two 3s by Caron Butler, to push its lead to 84-76 with two minutes left in the third quarter.
Houston scored the last six points of the third quarter to cut the lead to 84-82 entering the fourth quarter.
The Thunder scored 39 points in the third quarter to take the lead after trailing the entire game. They opened the second half with a 9-0 run punctuated by a dunk by Ibaka to make it 54-52. Houston went right back on top with a 3-pointer by Parsons, but a 9-2 spurt by the Thunder gave them a 63-57 lead with about seven minutes left in the quarter.
Houston built a 14-4 lead early and was up 27-23 at the end of the first quarter.
The Thunder cut it to three points early in the second quarter on a 3-pointer by Butler before an 11-0 run by Houston pushed the lead to 43-29 about five minutes before halftime. Harden scored the last seven points in that span and capped it by making a 3-pointer with Derek Fisher right in his face.
Durant scored Oklahoma City's final five points to get the Thunder within 50-45 at halftime. The first three points of that run came when Durant was fouled on an off-balance layup he made with his back to the basket and then made the free throw.
NOTES: The 39 points the Thunder scored in the third quarter were the most anyone has scored against Houston this season in the quarter. ... Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon watched the game from a courtside seat.