Rockets into orbit, win 17th straight


The Houston Rockets had trouble at times holding on to the ball and keeping up with the young Milwaukee Bucks.

But as long as the Rockets keep hitting their 3-pointers, they’re pretty hard to beat.

James Harden scored 26 points, Eric Gordon had 18 points and two momentum-swinging 3s in the third quarter, and Houston beat Milwaukee 110-99 on Wednesday night for its 17th straight win.

The Rockets passed the Boston Celtics for the longest winning streak in the NBA this season. Houston hasn’t lost since Jan. 26 at New Orleans.

“We find ways to win,” Harden said. “It’s not going to be the same way every game.”

The latest victory came on the second of a tough back-to-back stretch of road games that started with a 10-point victory at Oklahoma City. No wonder the Rockets looked sluggish at times against the Bucks.

And yet Houston still led by 10 for most of the fourth quarter until a late surge by the hosts sliced the lead to 104-99 with 1:06 left on rookie Sterling Brown’s layup.

Chris Paul answered with a short floater in the lane with 45 seconds left after driving on Jason Terry to silence Milwaukee fans who were pleading “Defense! Defense!”

The Rockets obliged after forcing the Bucks to waste 15 seconds on the ensuing inbounds pass and settle for an off-balance 3 that missed. Houston led comfortably from there.

“There were a few 50-50 balls or offensive rebounds that we needed to secure that if we do, it gives us an opportunity to run,” Bucks coach Joe Prunty said. “If we run, then maybe we can put them on their heels . . . but the ball needs to move.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points. Khris Middleton finished with 18 points for Milwaukee, while Brown had a career-high 15.

Paul had 16 points and 11 assists for the Rockets, who answered every Bucks charge.

Milwaukee used an 11-0 run to get to within 73-69 with 3:25 left on Brown’s corner 3. The Bucks did most of their damage during the spurt around the bucket, with Antetokounmpo leading the way.

The NBA’s most prolific 3-point shooting team countered with another display of clutch perimeter shooting.

The Rockets would beat Milwaukee down the floor to set up open shots on the wing. Gordon knocked down two 3s, and P.J. Tucker added another 3 to help Houston close the third with a 14-7 run for an 87-76 lead.

The Rockets got off to a sloppy start at the Bradley Center with a seven-turnover first quarter, a night after tying its season high with 22 turnovers in the 10-point win at Oklahoma City.

Raptors 121, Pistons 119 (OT)

In Detroit, DeMar DeRozan scored 42 points, then fed Fred VanVleet for the tiebreaking jumper from the left corner with 1.1 seconds remaining in overtime to lift Toronto past the hosts.

The Raptors (47-17) became the first NBA team to clinch a playoff berth this season.

With the score tied late in overtime, the Pistons’ Reggie Bullock missed from the perimeter. DeRozan pushed the ball up the court and found VanVleet open in the corner. His shot from just inside the 3-point line gave Toronto the lead. Blake Griffin had 31 points for Detroit.

Pelicans 114, Kings 101

In Sacramento, Anthony Davis scored 17 points before rolling his left ankle and leaving in the third quarter of a victory over the Kings.

Nikola Mirotic scored 26 points with 10 rebounds, Holiday had 23 points and eight assists, and E’Twaun Moore added 15 points.

The 10-game winning streak matches the Pelicans’ franchise record set Jan. 9-26, 2011.

Jazz 104, Pacers 84

In Indianapolis, Rudy Gobert had 23 points and 14 rebounds, and Donovan Mitchell added 20 points and six assists in Utah’s victory over Indiana.

The Jazz improved to 15-2 over their last 17 games. Ricky Rubio had 18 points and seven assists for Utah, and reserve Jae Crowder added 16 points.

Myles Turner led Indiana with 24 points.

Bulls 119, Grizzlies 110

In Chicago, Lauri Markkanen scored 22 points, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn added 21 apiece and the Bulls handed Memphis its 15th straight loss,

The Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks scored 20 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter.

Cavaliers 113, Nuggets 108

In Denver, LeBron James scored 39 points, including nine down the stretch, and dished out 10 assists as Cleveland topped the Nuggets after squandering a 16-point lead.

James made one off-balanced shot after another in the waning minutes to turn back the Nuggets, who didn’t take their first lead of the game until 8:35 remaining on a driving layup by Mason Plumlee.

Nikola Jokic had 36 points and 13 rebounds for Denver, which lost for the second straight night.

Lakers 108, Magic 107

In Los Angeles, Brook Lopez scored 27 points and hit two free throws with 0.6 seconds to play, and the Lakers blew a nine-point lead in the final 90 seconds before rallying back to beat Orlando.

Aaron Gordon scored 28 points and made a driving, go-ahead layup with 5 seconds to play for the Magic, who trailed 106-97 before scoring 10 straight points.