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.
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.
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.