The NBA-leading Houston Rockets capped a perfect February with a 105-92 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday to stretch their winning streak to 14 games.
The Rockets, led by 25 points from James Harden, finished February 12-0 and with their second 14-game win streak of the season became just the sixth team in league history to post multiple streaks of at least 14 wins in the same campaign.
“Extremely important,” Harden said of the victory over the Clippers, potential early playoff opponents who had beaten the Rockets twice this season.
The victory kept the Rockets atop the Western Conference, leading the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors who beat the Wizards 109-101 in Washington.
The Rockets led by as many as 27 points. Harden delivered the game’s signature moment in the opening quarter when he wrong-footed Wesley Johnson with a quick cross-over dribble, Johnson falling backwards to the court and receiving a long stare from Harden before the Rockets star drained a three-pointer over him.
Harden wasn’t on the floor for the Rockets’ January 15 loss to the Clippers, when on-court clashes spilled over and a couple of Houston players tried to confront the Clippers in their locker room.
This time there was no such drama as the Rockets seized control early, taking a 34-12 lead after one quarter.
The Clippers trailed just 83-72 going into the final period, but Houston pulled away inexorably in the fourth.
“We just kept our composure and finished the game off the right way,” Harden said.
In Washington, Warriors star and DC-area native Kevin Durant celebrated his homecoming by scoring 32 points.
Stephen Curry added 25 points and the Warriors limited Washington guard Bradley Beal to eight to notch their seventh win in eight games.
Eastern Conference leaders Toronto pulled away late to beat the lowly Magic 117-104 in Orlando.
The Raptors capped a 9-2 February, clamping down in the fourth quarter to force 10 misses by the Magic in their first 12 shots of the final period.
Six players scored in double figures for the Raptors, with DeMar DeRozan leading the way with a game-high 21 points.
Kyle Lowry added 17 with 11 assists and seven rebounds. Reserve center Jakob Poeltl finished with 13 points and eight rebounds and Pascal Siakam added 14 points for Toronto, who led by one point going into the fourth quarter.
The Boston Celtics, battling to regain the Eastern Conference lead, won their fourth straight since the All-Star break in impressive fashion, beating the Charlotte Hornets 134-106.
Kyrie Irving scored 34 points, handed out five assists and pulled down four rebounds for the Celtics, who halted the Hornets’ five-game winning streak.
In Dallas, Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook scored 30 points as the Thunder spoiled a milestone night for Mavericks veteran Dirk Nowitzki with a 111-110 overtime triumph.
Westbrook converted the go-ahead three-point play in the final minute of overtime, driving for a layup and drawing a foul, then making the free-throw to cap the scoring with 38 seconds left.
Germany’s Nowitzki, sixth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, reached 31,000 points with a trademark fadeaway jump shot in the second quarter. The 39-year-old, in his 20th NBA season, finished with 12 points.
Pelicans rally to beat Spurs
The New Orleans Pelicans, fuelled by 26 points and 15 rebounds from Anthony Davis, rallied late to beat the Spurs in San Antonio 121-116.
Davis sank a pair of free throws with 3.4 seconds left to seal the victory for the Pelicans, who trailed by as many as 15 in the third quarter.
The Pelicans won their seventh straight and to make matters worse for San Antonio they saw star forward LaMarcus Aldridge depart in the first half with a sprained ankle.
He joined Pau Gasol and Kawhi Leonard on the Spurs’ injured list.
“Tough loss,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who was ejected after receiving two technical fouls early in the third quarter. “I couldn’t be more proud of our group. Under very, very tough circumstances they keep fighting.”