Rockets run hot streak to 12 straight and 21 of 25

The Houston Rockets had not been in many close games lately, though they showed they're capable of winning those, too.

DENVER (AP) — The Houston Rockets had not been in many close games lately, though they showed they're capable of winning those, too.

James Harden had 41 points and eight rebounds, Chris Paul scored 23 points and the Rockets beat the Nuggets 119-114 on Sunday night for their 12th straight victory.

Harden had 27 in the first half and seven in the fourth quarter, when the Rockets held off a late Denver rally. Harden has scored 40 or more points nine times this season. He finished with seven assists.

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"We haven't been in too many close games but it was cool to have that feel," Paul said.

The Rockets are 21-4 since Dec. 29 and own the best record (46-13) in the NBA. They are outscoring teams by an average of 12.5 points during the 12-game winning streak. The five-point win Sunday was their closest game during the streak, although Houston was up big early in the fourth.

"Having a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, we've got to finish games off like that," Harden said. "It was a good thing we finished the game off the right way down the stretch. We got stops when we needed to and we made shots."

Nikola Jokic had 21 points and 14 rebounds for Denver, which had its four-game winning streak snapped. Will Barton added 25 points.

"Obviously the first two times we played that team the game was not even close, so to make it a game and to fight all the way to the end was great to see," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "I thought the game was decided in the last two minutes of the first quarter."

That was when Harden took over. He scored 14 points in the last 2:47 of the period and assisted on Houston's other two baskets to end the period, when the Rockets extended the lead from five to 13.