The Houston Rockets fought through adversity tonight, as they battled injuries, poor officiating and tired shooting legs, but they used top performances from both James Harden and Chris Paul to put away the Milwaukee Bucks and win their thirteenth straight game, 115-111.
Harden finished with 31 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists, and Paul finished with 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists, including three consecutive three pointers in the second half and two straight vintage CP3 mid-range jumpers with under a minute to go to seal up the Houston victory.
The Rockets won despite being without Luc Mbah a Moute and Clint Capela, who were both out with injuries, and with The Beard playing through a sore knee. They also shot just 11-35 from beyond the arc, a function of some tight Milwaukee close outs and the second night of a back-to-back, but the Rockets were able to get to the hoop when the threes weren’t falling.
In addition to The Beard and CP3, Houston also got a strong performance from Nene, who finished with 16 points on 7-9 shooting, including several thunderous dunks, to go along with 4 rebounds. The big man from Brazil was helping to fill in for Capela, despite it being the Rockets’ second game in as many nights.
Houston also got 16 points from Eric Gordon, 13 from Trevor Ariza, and P.J. Tucker had a 10-point, 10-rebound double double and played his usual rugged defense. Tucker helped hold Giannis Antetokounmpo to under .500 shooting (10-22) and had several key box outs of the Greek Freak, including a key one down the stretch.
Antetokounmpo did lead the Bucks with 28 points, however, and he also added 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals.
Milwaukee also got 23 points from Kris Middleton, 20 from Malcolm Brogdon and 19 Eric Bledsoe, but they too were on the second night of a back-to-back, and couldn’t take advantage of a shorthanded and tired Houston team.
With the win, the Rockets are now 24-4 and still haven’t lost with Paul on the court. They lead the Western Conference standings by a game and a half over the Golden State Warriors.
The Bucks fall to 15-13 and hold a half-game lead over the Miami Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Rockets now have Sunday night off and continue their home stand on Monday night against the Utah Jazz, where Houston will be looking for their fourteenth consecutive victory.
There’s a little way to go yet, but snag a few more straight in the win the column, and we can start wondering if this team can match the 22-game streak of the 2008 squad. The Rockets play their next three in a row at home, all against teams with losing records.