HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- One of the most anticipated games on the Houston Rockets' 2021-2022 schedule resulted in the biggest win of the season for the rebuilding but scrappy team.
In their third meeting against James Harden since their former star forced a trade out of Houston this past January, the Rockets (8-16) were sparked by rookie Josh Christopher's career-high 18 points off the bench to knock off the Eastern Conference-leading Brooklyn Nets, 114-104, to extend the league's longest active win streak to seven.
The Nets, who played without star Kevin Durant during the second of back-to-back road games, were down as many as 20 points against the Rockets, who were led by veteran Eric Gordon's 21 points.
But it was Josh Christopher, an Arizona State alum like Harden, who used Wednesday night's matchup as his breakthrough game in his rookie season. On his 20th birthday, the first-round draft pick made all seven of his field goal attempts, including four from behind the arc.
Christopher capped off his birthday game in the waning minutes with an emphatic alley-oop dunk.
Houston kept the lead for most of the game, heading into halftime up 15. The Rockets almost let Brooklyn back in, allowing a run in the fourth quarter that cut the lead down to four. That was also coupled with Gordon's second technical foul of the game and automatic ejection.
The Rockets kept poised thanks to guard Garrison Mathews' well-timed threes and a key steal of Harden down the stretch. Mathews ended the night with 19 points.
The Rockets won without No. 2 draft pick Jalen Green, who missed his sixth straight game with a hamstring injury, as well as Kevin Porter Jr. and Danuel House, who were out with a bruised thigh and a sprained ankle, respectively.
Harden led Brooklyn with 25 points but went 4-for-16 from the field.
The win gave Houston an unprecedented distinction. The Rockets became the first team in the four major North American sports leagues to win at least seven games in a row after losing 15 straight.
Houston has a chance to pile on to that record when it faces the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks at Toyota Center on Friday.