DALLAS (AP) — This time, James Harden was reduced to a supporting role for the Houston Rockets. Eric Gordon and Chris Paul led the way.
Gordon scored 26 points and Paul blocked Jalen Brunson’s jumper in the final seconds, sending the streaking Rockets to a 94-93 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.
Harden was saddled by foul trouble and finished with 20 points in Houston’s eighth straight win, 16 below his season average. The reigning NBA MVP led the Rockets in scoring in his previous 43 games for the league’s longest such streak since Michael Jordan’s 66-game run ended in 1988, according to STATS.
“We’ve had a lot of games where it was ugly and we lost earlier in the season,” Harden said. “But we’ll take the ugly win.”
In a matchup of teams going in opposite directions in the Western Conference, Dallas pushed its in-state rival to the end. After Harden missed a runner with 8.9 seconds to play, the Mavericks had a chance to win.
Coach Rick Carlisle opted to let it play out and rookie Luka Doncic rushed the ball up court. As three Rockets converged on him, Doncic found Brunson on the right wing, but Paul recovered to make a clean block on Brunson’s running 14-footer at the buzzer.
“I read (Doncic) and knew he was going to throw it to Jalen,” Paul said. “Jalen didn’t have enough time to do anything else but shoot it. If he pump-faked it, I’m in trouble. But then, he might not have had enough time to get the shot off.”
Brunson said he liked Carlisle’s decision to not use a timeout.
“It just shows that Coach trusts us, and obviously we want the ball in Luka’s hands,” Brunson said. “He made an unselfish play. I just have to knock it down.”
Gordon snapped a tie with a layup with 3:42 left, and PJ Tucker’s three-pointer put Houston up by five with 1:29 remaining. Dwight Powell’s dunk cut the lead to one with 31 seconds left.