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Rockets’ juggernaut continues to roll over top NBA teams

Houston Rockets’ James Harden, left, and Chris Paul celebrate after Paul made a three-pointer during the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat at Toyota Center. (USA TODAY Sports)
LOS ANGELES: The Houston Rockets aren’t the type of team to rest on their laurels.
Just two days after beating the reigning league champion Golden State Warriors, Houston quickly refocused on Monday night with a 99-90 victory over the Miami Heat in a battle of first-place NBA teams.
James Harden scored a team-high 28 points while Chris Paul had 16, six rebounds and six assists for the Rockets, who are blasting through one of the toughest stretches of their season.
“We got to win games like that,” Harden said. “I think they only had seven threes all night.
“We buckled down and took away the paint. Made them make tough shots over us.”
Eric Gordon came off the bench to score 16 points and Clint Capela delivered 14 for the Rockets, who won for the first time when scoring under 100 points in a game.
Hassan Whiteside led the Southeast Division-leading Heat with 22 points and 13 rebounds, while Josh Richardson finished with 12 in the loss in front of a crowd of 18,050 at the Toyota Center arena.
The Rockets, who are first in the Southwest Division, improved to 33-12 on the season by overcoming a sizeable early deficit against the Heat.
Their last three wins have all come over first-place teams, Golden State, Miami and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Houston welcomed both Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green back to their rotation after they served suspensions for trying to get into the Los Angeles Clippers’ locker room following a physical game at Staples Center arena.
Monday’s contest marked the first time in a while that the Rockets were fully healthy and the hope now is they can continue to find the right chemistry with all their injured and suspended players back in the lineup.
“We finally got all our guys healthy,” Harden said. “We got guys that can play a lot of minutes with a lot of energy.”
The short-handed Heat have also ramped up the tenacity in their play of late as they were coming off a 106-105 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
Houston’s Harden nailed a three-pointer with about three minutes left in the fourth to bust open a close game.
The Rockets then went on a 7-2 run to make it 95-90 with 38 seconds remaining.
The Heat led by double digits at halftime and kept it close down the stretch.

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