Rockets hold off red-hot Blazers

THE league-leading Houston Rockets ended the Trail Blazers' 13-game NBA winning streak on Tuesday with a hard-fought 115-111 victory in Portland.

James Harden of the Houston Rockets goes to the basket against the Portland Trail Blazers during their NBA match at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday. The Rockets won 115-111 to halt the Blazers’ 13-game win streak. 

THE league-leading Houston Rockets ended the Trail Blazers’ 13-game NBA winning streak on Tuesday with a hard-fought 115-111 victory in Portland.

In a game featuring the National Basketball Association’s two hottest teams, Houston’s Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden scored 42 points to help the Rockets notch their 13th victory in 14 games since the All-Star break.

Neither team led by more than 10 points in a see-saw battle that saw 17 lead changes and 10 ties.

Harden’s step-back 3-pointer put the Rockets up 113-104 with 1:55 to play.

The Trail Blazers narrowed the gap to 2 points in the final minute, but would get no closer.

“They’ve been playing well, we all know that,” Harden said. “Nothing changes for us, no matter who we play. We go out there and just do our thing on both ends of the floor. Tonight was no different.”

Forward Al-Farouq Aminu led Portland with 22 points. Jusuf Nurkic added 21 points and Damian Lillard added 20 as Portland maintained its lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder for third place in the Western Conference.

The Celtics dealt the Thunder a damaging 99-100 loss in Boston, where Marcus Morris drained a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left to lift hosts.

With Celtics star Kyrie Irving still sidelined by a sore left knee, Jayson Tatum led Boston with 23 points and 11 rebounds.

Morris added 21 as the Celtics snapped Oklahoma City’s 6-game win streak.

Russell Westbrook scored 27 points with 8 rebounds and 7 assists for the Thunder, but his last-gasp heave as time expired bounced off the rim.

The Thunder led by 6 with less than 25 seconds to play, and they were up 99-97 with 12.7 seconds left when Carmelo Anthony missed two free throws.

After a Celtics timeout, Morris drained a fadeaway 3 from the right for the win.

It was a morale boosting victory for a Celtics team also missing Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Daniel Theis, although it did little to alter the playoff-bound Celtics’ hold on second place in the East.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, it was: Raptors 93, Magic 86; Timberwolves 123, Clippers 109; Pelicans 115, Mavericks 105; Hawks 99, Jazz 94; and Pistons 115, Suns 88.

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