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Rockets 130, Nuggets 125 (OT)

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- Guard James Harden nailed a game-tying 3-pointer with 7.1 seconds left in regulation, and the Houston Rockets erased a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit, then beat the Denver Nuggets 130-125 in overtime Sunday night at Toyota Center.

Harden, who led the Rockets on a 19-5 rally over the final 4:24 of regulation, finished with 32 points and 10 assists. He assisted on two 3-pointers by forward Chandler Parsons in overtime that gave the Rockets (51-25) an insurmountable eight-point lead.

Houston center Omer Asik totaled 18 points, 23 rebounds, three blocks and three steals, while guard Jeremy Lin had 19 points and five assists.

Nuggets guard Aaron Brooks torched his former organization with 24 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds in his return to Houston following his Feb. 20 trade. Forward Quincy Miller tallied a career-high 19 points. Forward Kenneth Faried added a double-double (16 points, 13 rebounds), while guard Evan Fornier had 26 off the bench for Denver (33-44).

Perhaps the only thing more improbable than the Rockets recovering from an unsightly first-quarter shooting display to score a season-high 47 points in the second quarter was the ease with which the Nuggets erased the Rockets' 17-point halftime advantage in the third.

After shooting 8-for-25 from the floor and 4-for-10 from the line in the first quarter, the Rockets seemingly couldn't miss in the second. A quick 14-4 burst out of the quarter break netted Houston a 36-31 lead, but the Nuggets held firm until their avalanche of turnovers fed a Rockets rally.

Already trailing 58-48, Denver managed just one field goal over the final two minutes of the half, and the Rockets closed the quarter on a 9-0 blitz -- the final seven coming from Lin.

Amazingly, the Rockets' 69-52 halftime lead was short-lived. Denver exceeded the Rockets' 15-for-23 shooting in the second quarter by making 16 of 24 shots in the third, including all four from 3-point range.

Miller and Faried combined for 19 points in the third, with their energy feeding the Nuggets' surge. Houston cooled off at the most inopportune time, with the Nuggets' 21-4 run netting Denver a lead.

NOTES: Nuggets G Aaron Brooks squared off against his former team. "We joked at our breakfast meeting that we prayed for a good outing by one of our guys against one of their ex-teams," Denver coach Brian Shaw said. "Randy (Foye) hasn't played well against Utah, J.J. (Hickson) against Portland, Nate (Robinson) against Chicago -- they all struggled against their ex-teams." ... The Rockets entered Sunday ranked 11th in the NBA in defensive efficiency (102.6 points per 100 possessions) despite a reputation that suggests otherwise. Their improvement on that end of the court has been steady. "I've been pretty happy with it," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said of the transition defense in particular. "Every once in a while we'll have a breakdown, but not like it was earlier. We're much better at loading the paint and getting back."
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