Houston, TX – James Harden shot a 3-pointer at the buzzer and it was goaltended by Jermaine O'Neal, giving the Houston Rockets a 101-98 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.
Harden scored 33 points, and while he was just 9-of-21 from the field, including 1-of-7 from behind the arc, he was 13-of-14 from the foul line while adding six rebounds and six assists
Francisco Garcia had 15 points while Jeremy Lin and Greg Smith scored 13 and 12 points, respectively, in the victory, their fifth in the last six games.
The Rockets also officially clinched a playoff berth after the Utah Jazz lost to Oklahoma City on Tuesday. They currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference standings, one game behind the Warriors with four games left on the schedule.
"This is a stepping stone for us," said Harden. "To get in the playoffs, hopefully we can learn from it."
Luis Scola had a team-high 28 points and eight rebounds for the Suns, who have lost 10 straight and 14 of their last 15 games. Goran Dragic registered a double-double with 15 points and 10 assists while Markieff Morris had 11 points and nine rebounds in the setback.
Entering the fourth quarter, Houston had a 78-74 lead, but Phoenix had a 7-0 spurt to take the lead, 81-80 with 10 minutes remaining in regulation.
The rest of the period was tight with neither team able to pull away. The Rockets had the largest lead with five points midway through the frame, but an 8-0 run by the Suns gave them a 93-90 edge with less than four minutes to play.
Houston retook the lead, 96-95, with 1:57 left, only for Phoenix to answer back after a hook shot by Scola just 18 seconds later. Scola made a free throw with 53 seconds to go, which would be the final score for the Suns.
Lin made two free throws with 35 seconds remaining to tie the game at 98-98.
O'Neal attempted a layup with 24 seconds left to give them the lead but was blocked by Asik. The Suns got the offensive rebound, but Scola missed from seven feet.
Harden shot from the wing at the buzzer, but it appeared O'Neal's hand went through the net as the ball bounded off the rim. Upon further review, it was determined that O'Neal had in fact altered the shot by going through the rim, and Houston was awarded the winning basket.
The Rockets had a 29-21 lead entering the second quarter, but the Suns made their way back. A 9-0 surge by the Suns late in the period gave them the lead, 51-47, with a minute remaining.
At halftime, Phoenix led 53-51.
In the third quarter, the Rockets retook control immediately with a 6-0 spurt to lead 57-53 with 9:55 left. Harden scored 11 points in the period and Houston remained in control throughout.
Omer Asik had 22 rebounds ... Harden had 13 points in the first quarter ... The Rockets shot 6-of-30 from three-point range, including 0-for-7 in the third quarter ... Houston wins the season series 2-1 for the first time since the 2008-09 season ... The Rockets improve to 23-25 against in-conference teams, but remain the only team in the top eight to have a sub-.500 record.