HIGHLIGHTS: James Harden scores 40 to lead Rockets past Nuggets


Give the Denver Nuggets this: They made MVP candidate James Harden work for every bit of a 109-105 victory at Pepsi Center on Saturday night. Harden, who scored 40 points and recorded a triple-double, almost single-handedly took down a hot Nuggets team despite being on the second leg of a road back-to-back.

After losing at New Orleans on Friday despite his 41 points, Harden again put his team on his back and carried the Rockets to a win in a game in which no team ever had more than a seven-point lead. Denver actually led 56-51 at the half and had several opportunities to tied the game late, but missed. It was Harden’s second triple-double in as many nights.

It was an egalitarian effort on the night from Denver. Gary Harris led all Nuggets with 17 points. Jameer Nelson had a double-double with 15 points and 11 assists. Five other Nuggets scored in double-figures and Mason Plumlee was just shy with nine points. Denver was again without Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari. Kenneth Faried had 11 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench in his second game back in action following a back injury.

Denver will try to return the favor on Monday when they travel to Houston. With the loss, Portland is now 1.5 games behind Denver for the final playoff spot in the West.