The Houston Rockets finally beat the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, and James Harden's fourth-quarter performance was a big reason why.
The "Bearded One" scored or assisted on Houston's final nine points, as the Rockets very nearly gave away their fourth straight loss to the Spurs. Tony Parker was virtually unguardable down the stretch, dicing up the Rockets defense to score San Antonio's final 12 points.
But Harden drew a suspect shooting foul on a three-point attempt with 1:04 left, and after he made two of his three foul shots, the Rockets got a stop and retained the ball with nine ticks left.
On Houston's final possession, Harden inbounded to Omer Asik on the right wing, getting the rock back in a handoff as Asik screened Kawhi Leonard.
Driving hard to the middle, Harden pulled up at the foul line, anticipating contact from the trailing Leonard. He got what he was looking for, but no whistle blew.
It's a good thing for the Rockets that he buried the mid-range jumper anyway.
Harden's bucket gave the Rockets a 96-95 lead that held up when the Spurs couldn't convert on a couple of last-second tries. Had things turned out a little differently, this takeaway could easily have been about Tony Parker's seemingly unstoppable scoring dominance—and really, his performance shouldn't go unnoticed.
But Harden's finishing flurry was huge for the Rockets, who desperately needed to prove to themselves that they could beat their Texas big brother, if only for the first time in four tries this year.