“It was a great win for us … just to give ourselves confidence, especially going into the playoffs,” Harden said. “We might see them. It was a big win for us. It shows the resilience we have.”
Kevin Durant scored 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for his 40th straight game with at least 25 points, the longest streak since Michael Jordan also did it 40 consecutive times in 1986-87. But he was in no mood to talk about matching the feat after the game.
“We lost the game that’s all I’m worried about,” he said. “I don’t care. We lost.”
The normally mild-mannered Durant, who leads the NBA with 32.1 points a game, talked a little trash afterward when asked if he was frustrated by the physical defense Houston’s Chandler Parsons and Francisco Garcia played on him.
“Those dudes can’t check me 1-on-1,” he said. “They know that. I ain’t afraid to say it either. They know that. So I was playing the double-teams, triple-teams, but you still got to find a way to do it. They’re physical just like everybody else and I’ve been playing against physical players my whole life, so it’s nothing different.”
The Thunder, who had already secured a playoff berth, clinched their fourth consecutive Northwest Division title with a loss by Portland later Friday.
Durant’s 3-pointer cut Houston’s lead to one with 1:01 remaining, but Houston answered with four straight free throws. He made another 3 with 16 seconds left, but Harden made two free throws to push the lead to 111-107.
Harden was 17 of 20 from the line and had nine rebounds and seven assists.
The Rockets were playing without Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley, who both missed their fourth straight games. Howard has missed seven games recently because of a left ankle strain and Beverley is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus in his right knee.
“There’s all kind of adversity in playoff games and playoff runs,” coach Kevin McHale said. “You’ve got to be resilient and that’s what I’ve been preaching with the guys and the coaching staff. You’ve just got to stay in the fight and keep swinging. When we do that, we’re OK.”
Serge Ibaka tied a career high with 27 points in a game that Russell Westbrook didn’t play because the Thunder were playing the second night of a back-to-back.