MEMPHIS • James Harden knew he had to step up, as he always does, when the Houston Rockets were fighting to overturn a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The guard did his best, got the Rockets to overtime with 15 points during a 17-2 rally but, in the end, his game-high 57 points were still not enough to rescue his team.
Jonas Valanciunas' offensive rebound and free throw with 0.1 second left in the extra period eventually helped the Grizzlies topple the Rockets 126-125 at FedExForum on Wednesday night.
Valanciunas paired a career-high 33 points with 15 rebounds and teamed with Mike Conley (35 points, eight assists) to help Memphis fend off Harden and the rallying Rockets.
"We put ourselves in a hole and tried to pick it up,'' Harden said. "We were down, so I had to do something. But it was too late."
Valanciunas corralled a miss by Conley before absorbing a foul from Houston centre Clint Capela on the game's deciding play.
That followed the MVP-calibre display from Harden, who scored 18 points in the fourth quarter before adding eight points during a 28-second stretch in overtime.
"It was one of those games. Every once in a while it crops up,'' Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said.
"You've got to go on. It's too bad, but we just kind of threw that away.''
Chris Paul added 18 points and seven assists, but shot six of 17 while Capela posted 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who were without guard Eric Gordon (rest) and forward Kenneth Faried (sore knee).
Memphis (29-42) averted a four-game season series sweep against Houston (45-27), who lost for just the third time since the All-Star break.
Conley and Valanciunas combined to shoot 10-of-10 for 26 points in the first quarter.
Conley ended the night 12-of-23 from the field, including six-for-nine from outside the three-point arc and has now scored at least 20 points six-straight games.
Valanciunas, meanwhile, made 10-of-19 shots from the floor and was 13-of-17 at the foul line.
"That was a fun game. It's the kind of game you want to be a part of - big plays, big opportunities for everybody," Conley said.
"The way it ended was wild. I'm just happy we got away with a win.''