James Harden fires Rockets to victory over Clippers

Houston Rockets v Charlotte Hornets

James Harden amassed 31 points as the Houston Rockets downed the Los Angeles Clippers 135-103 at the Staples Center.

The reigning MVP made his case for this year’s accolade as another 30-plus game powered his side to their fourth-straight victory.

Team-mate Chris Paul was not far behind, finishing with 29 points, and had fans on their feet with a buzzer-beating three-pointer at end of the third quarter.

Houston sit third in the Western Conference, with the Clippers in sixth, potentially setting up a first-round play-off game between the pair.

The Charlotte Hornets, meanwhile, kept their faint play-off hopes alive with a 115-109 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Kemba Walker proved the Hornets – in 10th place in the Eastern Conference – have not given up on their post-season chances, pouring in 21 points in the fourth quarter and finishing with 32 for the night.

The Minnesota Timberwolves left it late to clinch their narrow victory over the Dallas Mavericks, with Andrew Wiggins scoring the game-winner in a 110-108 triumph with less than 20 seconds on the clock.

Nikola Jokic impressed for Denver, finishing with 20 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in their 113-85 win over the San Antonio Spurs, as the Nuggets hold on to the second spot in the West.

It was a short night for Gregg Popovich, however, after the San Antonio coach was ejected from the game after just 63 seconds.

The Utah Jazz, who have already confirmed their play-off ticket, beat the Phoenix Suns 118-97, while play-off bound Philadelphia 76ers fell 130-122 to the Atlanta Hawks.

Walt Lemon Jr scored a career-high 24 points as the Chicago Bulls stopped their five-game losing run with a narrow 115-114 victory over the Washington Wizards, while Blake Griffin’s absence took its toll on the Detroit Pistons, who were defeated 108-98 by the Indiana Pacers.

In the night’s other games, the Miami Heat dropped down the play-off standings into ninth after a 112-102 defeat to the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors claimed their fifth-straight win with a 115-105 triumph over the Brooklyn Nets.

The Orlando Magic boosted their chances for the final play-off place with a 114-100 success against the New York Knicks and the Portland Trail Blazers earned their 50th victory with a 116-89 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

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