OKC rallies to beat Phoenix, 109-95 as Harden scores career high, 40 points

PHOENIX (AP) – James Harden scored a career-high 40 points, including making 5-of-8 three-pointers, and the Oklahoma City Thunder dealt Phoenix a blow in its scramble to make the playoffs with a 109-97 victory over the Suns Wednesday night.

Kevin Durant added 29 points and Russell Westbrook 15 for the Thunder, who stayed a half-game behind San Antonio for the top playoff seed in the Western Conference.

Phoenix's loss, coupled with Utah's' victory over Portland, moved the Jazz a half-game ahead of the Suns for the West's eighth and final playoff spot.

Harden, who starred at nearby Arizona State, made 12-of-17 shots overall and was 11-of-11 from the free throw line. The Thunder's superb, bearded reserve played 33 minutes. His previous high was 33 against Charlotte March 10.

Channing Frye scored 13 for the Suns. Steve Nash added 12 points but just five assists. Phoenix center Marcin Gortat was just 2-of-13 shooting for nine points.

The Suns jumped out to a 19-6 lead and were up 25-13 after Dudley's inside basket with 4:18 left in the first quarter. But Phoenix never scored again in the period as the Thunder reeled off 16 in a row, 10 by Harden, to take a 29-25 lead after one.

The game stayed close until a 13-2 run gave the Thunder a 50-41 lead on Kendrick Perkins ' dunk. The Thunder led 52-45 at the break.

Oklahoma City led throughout the third quarter, but never by more than seven.

Nash drew a technical while complaining about a basket that he felt should have been ruled a three-pointer, then coach Alvin Gentry was whistled for one for arguing about the Nash technical. Durant made both free throws, then Harden made a pair at the line to put Oklahoma City up 73-67 with 3:07 left in the third. Derek Fisher's 21-footer at the buzzer gave the Thunder an 81-77 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Oklahoma City outscored the Suns 7-2 to start the final quarter to take an 89-79 lead. His fifth 3-pointer of the night made it 101-86 with 7:11 to go.

NOTES: John MacLeod, who holds the Suns' franchise records for victories and tenure as coach, was inducted to the team's "Ring of Honor" at halftime. MacLeod's Suns went 579-543 from 1973 to midway through the 1986-87 season. His 1975-76 team reached the NBA Finals , losing in six games to the Boston Celtics in a series that included a triple-overtime defeat considered one of the greatest games in league history. … After returning for two games following a medical procedure to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee, Phoenix's Grant Hill sat out his second game in a row to give the knee more time to heal. … The Thunder play at Sacramento on Friday, then meet the Lakers in Los Angeles on Sunday before closing the regular season with home games against Sacramento and Denver. … Harden scored 30 against Phoenix on March 7. … Three of Phoenix's final four games are at home, beginning Thursday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.

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