HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden faced the throng of reporters waiting at his locker and exhaled heavily after the Houston Rockets slipped by the New York Knicks on Friday night to end a two-game skid.
"It's a huge sigh of relief," Harden said. "We found a way. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't the prettiest win, but at the end of the night a win is all that matters."
Harden scored 37 points and Aaron Brooks made a pair of free throws with 17 seconds left to lift the Rockets to a 102-100 victory.
The Knicks had a chance to tie it at the end, but Iman Shumpert missed a shot before Andrea Bargnani grabbed a rebound and dished it to Beno Udrih, whose running jump shot rolled in and out of the basket at the buzzer.
Several Knicks put their hands on their heads in disbelief as they watched the ball spin out.
Udrih and J.R. Smith both missed 3-pointers for the Knicks with under a minute remaining. Brooks grabbed the rebound on the second one and was fouled by Udrih to set up the game-winning free throws.
Smith admitted after the game that he made a mistake in taking his shot, which came with 19.9 seconds remaining.
"Honestly I thought we were down two when I shot the ball," Smith said. "I started hearing Tyson (Chandler) say: "No, no, no don't take the shot." But at that point it was already released ... it was just bad basketball IQ by me."
Carmelo Anthony couldn't believe they had another play where they should have held the ball instead of taking an ill-advised shot. In a game last month against Milwaukee, Bargnani jacked up a 3-point attempt with 11.9 seconds left and New York up by two points in overtime. The Bucks made a shot on the other end to force a second overtime, but the Knicks were able to rebound for a double-overtime win in that one.
"Yeah, yeah, it was kind of like deja vu," Anthony said when asked if that play reminded him of Smith's shot.
New York coach Mike Woodson said Smith's miss was just one of many opportunities they didn't take advantage of Friday night.
"We had our shots and I think we compounded it too by fouling instead of making them go through our defense," he said.
Shumpert, who scored a career-high 27 Thursday night, led the Knicks with 26 and Anthony added 25.
Anthony returned on Thursday night after missing three games with a sprained left ankle and tweaked it late in that win. He was still struggling with it Friday night, and winced almost every time he landed after jumping in the second half.