Harden scores 51 as Rockets beat Kings

– James Harden strengthened his case for the MVP award with a career-high 51 points in the Houston Rockets' 115-111 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.

Houston was up by nine points with about eight minutes left when Sacramento used a 9-2 spurt to get within 104-102 with five minutes left. An 8-0 run by Harden, which he capped with a three-point play, pushed the lead to 112-104.

DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings with his second career triple-double with 24 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists after missing Monday's game to rest. He also had six blocks.

Wednesday's performance surpassed Harden's previous career best of 50 points, which came on March 19.

"Shooting 8-of-9 from three is hard to do," coach Kevin McHale said of Harden. "It's hard to do when you're by yourself, much less in a game when everything is contested."

He also had eight rebounds, six assists and three steals.

HIGHLIGHTS

•SPURS CLINCH PLAYOFF SPOT: Aron Baynes hd 18 points and Manu Ginobili added 13 as San Antonio clinched a playoff berth with a 103-91 win at Orlando. San Antonio, which won its fifth game in a row, is 15-3 since Feb. 27 and has made the postseason in 18 consecutive seasons.

•LOPEZ SAVES NETS: Brook Lopez's follow shot with two seconds left gave the Brooklyn Nets their fifth straight victory and a share of seventh place in the Eastern Conference, as they beat the host New York Knicks 100-98. Deron Williams had 26 points for the Nets.

•PAUL SCORES, DISHES: Chris Paul had 41 points and 17 assists as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Trail Blazers 126-122 in Portland.

•PLAYING HURT: Kelly Olynyk scored 19 points after nearly missing the game because of an eye injury sustained hours before tip-off, and the Boston Celtics beat the visiting Indiana Pacers 100-87 in a matchup of Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls. Evan Turner had 13 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds for Boston, which is a half-game out of a playoff spot.

•DOUBLE TROUBLE: Marcin Gortat scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and the Washington Wizards defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 106-93. John Wall added 13 points and 15 assists for Washington, which had lost five of six.

•WESTBROOK STARS IN LOSS: Monta Ellis scored 26 points, and the Dallas Mavericks withstood a triple-double from Russell Westbrook to beat the Thunder 135-131 in Oklahoma City. Westbrook had 31 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for his 10th triple-double of the season.

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