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Harden, Paul lead Rockets to 13th straight victory

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives between Milwaukee Bucks center Thon Maker, left, and guard Eric Bledsoe during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden scored 31 points, Chris Paul had 25 and the Houston Rockets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 115-111 on Saturday night for their 13th straight victory.

The winning streak is the Rockets' longest streak since a franchise-best 22 straight in 2007-08.

Harden hit a step-back 3-pointer over Malcolm Brogdon and was fouled, giving Houston an 11-point lead with less than six minutes remaining. In the last two minutes, Paul hit back-to-back mid-range jumpers on consecutive possessions to put the game out of reach.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals for Milwaukee. Khris Middleton had 23 points, and Brogdon added 20. Milwaukee has lost three straight.

The Rockets grinded through frustrations, 15 turnovers and a below-average shooting night. Paul had a technical foul, Harden had a delay of game warning, and the Rockets faced serious adversity for the first time in weeks. Entering Saturday, Houston had dominated teams in its streak, winning all but two games by double figures with an average margin of victory of 16.9 points.

Harden scored 20 points or more for the 29th straight game, matching Houston's franchise record set by Moses Malone.

Both Harden (sore knee) and Clint Capela (left heel contusion) were game-time decisions after suffering injuries on different collision plays in Friday night's win over San Antonio. Capela sat out the game, and P.J. Tucker started in his place, getting 10 points and 10 rebounds in 38 minutes.

Behind Tucker, Nene scored a season-high 16 points, largely on thunderous one-handed dunks. The Rockets were outscored by the Bucks 44-40 in the paint and outrebounded 40-38.

Milwaukee and Houston traded blows in the first half, with the Rockets leading by three at the end of the first quarter. They were tied at 55 at the half. The Rockets haven't trailed at the half since Nov. 25 in a 117-102 win over the Knicks.

The Rockets took an 84-79 lead into the fourth quarter.

At 24-4, the Rockets are tied for their best 28-game start in franchise history, matching the 1993-94 season when they won their first championship.

TIP-INS

Bucks: Former Rockets PG Jason Terry missed his sixth straight game with a left calf strain but was on the Milwaukee bench for the game. ... Reserve rookie guard Sterling Brown frustrated Paul early with physical defense, picking up four quick fouls in just six minutes in the first half.

Rockets: With a steal in the second quarter, Paul passed Kobe Bryant for 14th on the NBA's steals list with 1,945 steals. Paul, who had seven steals Friday night and one Saturday night, is 12 shy of Derek Harper's 1,957 steals for 13th place.

UP NEXT

Bucks: Host Cleveland on Tuesday night.

Rockets: Host Utah on Monday night.

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