HOUSTON -- Coach Kevin McHale said it first and then player after player echoed his sentiment: Early in the season Houston wouldn't have won the type of game they did Sunday night.
James Harden scored 41 points, Jeremy Lin had 26 and the Rockets rallied for a 118-113 overtime win against the Portland Trail Blazers.
"There's no way we win this game early on in the year," Chandler Parsons said. "So I think that shows a lot about our growth and maturity and just how much we're coming together and how well we're playing right now."
OAKLAND, Calif. -- When Steve Blake checked in at the scorer's table with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter, Stephen Curry shook his head and shouted across the court, asking Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson not to take him out.
Jackson, a self-described "feel coach," changed his plan. He had Blake enter instead for Andre Iguodala, who looked over at Curry and laughed on the way to the bench.
Curry keyed the deciding run later in the third quarter. He finished with 18 points and nine assists on a strained right quad, helping the Warriors hold off the Phoenix Suns 113-107 on Sunday night for their fourth straight win.
DALLAS -- Devin Harris rolled through the lane, hit a layup and pumped his fist when the whistle blew for a foul.
Vince Carter tipped a loose ball three times before emphatically grabbing the rebound, scowling while the play was still going on in a sequence that led to a 3-pointer.
The Dallas Mavericks have shown some fight to answer to their longest losing streak of the season. Now it's time for the Indiana Pacers to do the same.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Toronto Raptors have had every excuse to give in this season. They've had injuries to key players, turned the roster over significantly with an early season trade and had low expectations after a regime change portended a possible tear down and rebuild.
Kyle Lowry doesn't make excuses. Dwane Casey doesn't make excuses. And the Raptors haven't given an inch while climbing the Eastern Conference ladder.
Lowry had 20 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his fourth career triple-double, lifting the Raptors to a 111-104 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night.
NEW YORK -- Marcus Thornton has been around the Brooklyn Nets for only two weeks, so he's still trying to learn his new team's playbook.
According to Nets first-year coach Jason Kidd, there are some plays his reserve guard understands pretty well.
"It's called 'shoot it,'" Kidd said.
BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics overcame Detroit's dominance inside by passing the ball precisely and protecting it better than they had all season.
Rajon Rondo had 18 of Boston's season-high 38 assists and the Celtics committed just seven turnovers in a 118-111 win over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night.
"When one guy has it going as far as passing the ball, it's contagious," said Rondo, who also scored 11 points and didn't turn the ball over. "We scored a bunch of points tonight. We kept on pushing. We played free and just had fun."
NEW ORLEANS -- With a quick step to his left, Anthony Davis bolted from the man he was supposed to guard and launched himself toward the backboard in time to swat away Ty Lawson's driving layup.
As the crowd erupted, Davis knocked the ball off the glass and back into his hands. With 1:14 to go in overtime, Davis' sixth block also became his 17th rebound. That, along with his 32 points -- which tied a career high -- proved too much for Denver to overcome, and the Pelicans held on for their third straight victory, 111-107 on Sunday night.
"I don't think I was supposed to (guard Lawson)," Davis said of his pivotal block. "I just tried to make a basketball play. Coach (Monty Williams) tells us all the time, `If you're going to do something like that, you better go get it.' Thank God I got the rebound. It got us hyped and it was a play that we needed down the stretch."
LOS ANGELES -- From Jodie Meeks' big day to the final result, this was definitely a surprise.
Meeks scored 24 of his career-high 42 points in the second half, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat Oklahoma City 114-110 on Sunday despite a triple-double by Thunder star Kevin Durant.
Pau Gasol added 20 points and 11 rebounds for the injury-ravaged Lakers, who had lost 29 of their previous 37 games. Meeks was 11 of 18 from the field and 14 for 14 at the line while becoming the third player to reach the 30-point mark this season for last-place Los Angeles (22-42).
There's nothing he can do to get Derrick Rose back right now, nothing he can do to reverse the subsequent trade that sent another beloved teammate, Luol Deng, to Cleveland as the Bulls prepared for the long term. But as consolation prizes go, Joakim Noah knows what he values more than anything else he can imagine: beating Miami. They all do, really, every single Bulls player. It doesn't matter to them, this storyline that they can't beat Miami four times in May. They want Miami. Some teams get a collective headache when LeBron James comes to town; the Bulls would happily send a plane for LeBron and the champs. Noah called it "playing with hate," and the Bulls ratcheted up their obsession with Miami to beat the Heat in another regular-season game, this one in OT -- just as they stopped Miami's winning streak at 27 games a year ago, just as they push and shove and annoy the champs like nobody else in the NBA.
The lasting visual from the game that didn't involve Noah had to be the sight of Jimmy Butler and LeBron, tangled on the baseline after a missed shot, kicking and flailing at each other with no real menace intended, just strength and determination. But as often happens in the games between these two, the Bulls somehow got under Miami's skin. And nobody eats at Miami quite like Noah, whose 20 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists and 5 blocked shots was another in a string of sublime performances over the past six weeks that has Noah possibly behind only LeBron James and Kevin Durant as MVP of the league.
Taj Gibson might as well have been speaking for the entire team when he said afterward, "We don't like them at all. They've got what we want. This was like a street ballgame. They're talking and we're talking. They're physical and we're physical. Could you hear Jo on the foul line? He was talking to each and every one of them, telling 'em, 'Not tonight, not here! It ain't going down like that tonight!' Jo feels how we all feel about them. ... Look, we're a blue-collar team and we take pride in leaving it out there every single night ... but we see [their] jerseys and there's so much fire ... we see everything they've got that we want ... the rings, the trophies. That's what this league is about, going after the champs."
LOS ANGELES -- With the NBA season heading down the stretch and the MVP race seemingly a two-name toss-up between LeBron James and Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Durant could put up even bigger point totals if he chose.
"Let's face it: If he wanted to score a bunch of points or more than he's scoring now, he really could do that," Brooks said before the Thunder played the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. "His assist level has gone up, he impacts the game. Defensively, he impacts the game. He can guard 1 through 5. So a lot of things that he does (are) all about the team."
Durant entered Sunday's game averaging a career-high 31.8 points per game, but his 5.5 assists per game are also a career-best mark for the seven-year veteran.