Rockets down young Bucks to run winning streak to 17

MILWAUKEE — The Houston Rockets had trouble at times holding on to the ball and keeping up with the young Milwaukee Bucks.

But as long as the Rockets keep hitting their 3-pointers, they’re pretty hard to beat.

James Harden scored 26 points, Eric Gordon had 18 points and two momentum-swinging 3s in the third quarter, and Houston beat Milwaukee 110-99 on Wednesday for its 17th straight win.

The Rockets passed the Boston Celtics for the longest winning streak in the NBA this season. Houston hasn’t lost since Jan. 26 at New Orleans.

“We find ways to win,” Harden said. “It’s not going to be the same way every game.”

The latest victory came on the second of a tough back-to-back stretch of road games that started with a 10-point victory at Oklahoma City. No wonder the Rockets looked sluggish at times against the Bucks.

And yet the Rockets still led by 10 for most of the fourth quarter until a late surge by the Bucks sliced the lead to 104-99 with 1:06 left on rookie Sterling Brown’s layup.

Chris Paul answered with a short floater in the lane with 45 seconds left after driving on Jason Terry to silence Bucks fans who were pleading “Defense! Defense!”

Houston obliged after forcing the Bucks to waste 15 seconds on the ensuing inbounds pass and settle for an off-balance 3 that missed. The Rockets led comfortably from there.

“There were a few 50-50 balls or offensive rebounds that we needed to secure that if we do, it gives us an opportunity to run,” Bucks coach Joe Prunty said. “If we run, then maybe we can put them on their heels … but the ball needs to move.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points and Khris Middleton finished with 18 for Milwaukee. Brown had a career-high 15.

Paul had 16 points and 11 assists for the Rockets, who answered every Bucks charge.

Milwaukee used an 11-0 run to get to within 73-69 with 3:25 left on Brown’s corner 3. The Bucks did most of their damage during the spurt around the bucket, with Antetokounmpo leading the way in the post.

The NBA’s most prolific 3-point shooting team countered with another display of clutch perimeter shooting.

The Rockets would beat the Bucks down the floor to set up open shots on the wing. Gordon knocked down two 3s and P.J. Tucker added another 3 to help Houston close the third with a 14-7 run for an 87-76 lead.

“With a win streak like this you are doing a lot of things the right way,” Gordon said. “We still play for each other. We knew this was going to be a tough road trip.”