LOS ANGELES • James Harden scored 31 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 135-103 road rout of an in-form Los Angeles Clippers in a preview of a possible first-round play-off clash.
Chris Paul added 29 and both players dished out seven assists each as Houston remain a half-game ahead of Portland (50-28), who also won on Wednesday, for third place in the Western Conference of the National Basketball Association.
The Clippers fell 11/2 games behind Utah, 118-97 winners over Phoenix, in the race for fifth.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 20 points to pace the Clippers (47-32), who lost for just the third time in 16 games. Danilo Gallinari added 16 and Lou Williams scored 14 off the bench.
Coming into Wednesday's game, the Clippers had been the only team in the West not to have lost to the Rockets this season, having defeated them twice in October.
The Rockets made sure that streak ended by grabbing the lead early and never giving it up.
The Clippers led once at 2-0 on Landry Shamet's lay-up 43 seconds into the game.
Harden made an alley-oop dunk for Clint Capela and then a pair of free throws, Paul sank a 26-foot three-pointer, one of 10 his team would make in the first half, and the Rockets never looked back as they finished 68-53 at the break.
In Portland, Evan Turner registered his second straight triple-double with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in 28 minutes off the bench in a 116-89 victory over the visiting Memphis Grizzlies.
Enes Kanter had 21 points and 15 rebounds and Damian Lillard scored 20 points and dished out 10 assists for the Trail Blazers, who have won 11 of their past 13 games.
In the East, Nikola Vucevic had 29 points to help the Orlando Magic get back into the thick of the play-off race after a 114-100 home win over the New York Knicks.
Orlando (39-40), who began the night a half-game behind Miami for the eighth and final spot, moved into a tie for seventh as the Heat (38-40) fell to Boston 112-102.
With the crucial road victory, the Celtics remained in a tie for fourth with the Indiana Pacers, who beat the Detroit Pistons 108-89.