James Harden scores 26 as Rockets outgun Celtics down the stretch

Eric Gordon had a big night with 29 points off the bench. The Rockets' improved defense held Kyrie Irving to just 18 points.

Kahron Spearman

In a game that felt like an NBA Finals matchup, MVP candidate James Harden scored 26 points with ten assists and Eric Gordon scored 29 to lead the surging Houston Rockets to a 123-120 home win over the Boston Celtics.

The win gave the Rockets their 15th consecutive win, and ties the second-longest streak in franchise history, per ESPN Stats.

Ariza had the series of the game, making a three, then stealing the ball from Kyrie Irving and finishing at the rim to cap a 10-2 run o take a 117-115 lead with 1:16 remaining. 

Defense (is) what it boiled down to. In the first half it was a little too easy for them ... and the reason why we won was fourth-quarter defense.

Eric Gordon
Head coach, Houston Rockets

Al Horford missed on Boston's next two possessions. Chris Paul made two free throws with 15 seconds left to extend the lead to four. Harden made one of two free throws with 7.4 seconds left to make it 120-117.

Gordon made one of two free throws to make it 123-120 with 2.3 seconds left. Marcus Smart missed a game-tying three to close out the hotly contested matchup.

The Rockets late-game defense was the primary takeaway, showing themselves able to close out possessions when necessary. 

Kyrie Irving scored just 18, going 6-17 from the field.

"Defensively we are very equipped to get stops," Trevor Ariza said. "So we have a lot [of defensive talent] in this locker room."