Houston Rockets clip Milwaukee Bucks for 13th straight win

By MoiseKapenda Bower, The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 17, 2017 at 12:20 AM
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HOUSTON -- James Harden scored a game-high 31 points and Chris Paul produced 23 of his 25 points in the second half as the Houston Rockets extended their winning streak to 13 games with a 115-111 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night at Toyota Center.

Paul had just two points on 0-of-5 shooting before the intermission but opened the second half by drilling three consecutive 3-pointers. He was just as lethal down the stretch, nailing back-to-back mid-range jumpers off screens to lift the Rockets (24-4) to a seven-point lead with 33.7 seconds left.

Houston improved to 14-0 with Paul in the lineup.

The Rockets struggled from the perimeter throughout but produced timely 3-pointers in the clutch. Harden hit a 3 through a foul and completed a four-point play with 5:42 left before Trevor Ariza answered an 8-0 Milwaukee run with a corner 3-pointer with 2:24 remaining.

The Bucks (15-13) were game down the stretch but ran out of time to conjure additional magic.

Giannis Antetokounmpo paced Milwaukee with 28 points and nine rebounds. Khris Middleton added 23 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. Malcolm Brogdon scored 20 points off the bench and Eric Bledsoe added 19 points for the Bucks, who finished 27 of 33 from the free throw line.

For a spell, all the Rockets had were free throws. The Bucks offered defensive resistance all over the court, thwarting Harden on his forays to the rim while also sprinting to the arc to challenge Houston shooters.

The Rockets missed 9 of 11 treys in the first quarter but sank 10 of 11 from the line, efficiency that helped offset 40 percent shooting from the field (8 of 20) in the quarter.

Defensively, the Rockets labored to limit Antetokounmpo, and that dogged attention opened the door for Brogdon and Bledsoe to thrive. The tandem combined for 26 points while Antetokounmpo managed just seven shots in the first half.

With the Rockets shooting just 4 of 19 on 3-pointers, Milwaukee mustered enough offense for a 55-55 deadlock at the half.

NOTES: Bucks G/F DeAndre Liggins made his first start of the season, replacing Bucks G Gary Payton II in the lineup. Payton had started for consecutive games for the injury-riddled Bucks, averaging 3.3 points over 13.9 minutes in those games. ... Rockets C Clint Capela missed his first game of the season, sidelined by a left heel contusion. Houston G James Harden played despite dealing with right knee discomfort. With Capela unavailable, Rockets C Nene played in both games of the back-to-back. ... Rockets G Chris Paul had one steal and snapped a tie with Kobe Bryant for solo possession of 14th on the career list with 1,945.

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