James Harden's 42 points and 10 rebounds were not enough even during a comeback bid from down 15 in the waning minutes. He was one assist shy from a triple-double.
Harden hit at least five three-pointers in his 11th consecutive game, which is the most for any player in NBA history. The closest streak is seven games.
Houston led 60-54 at halftime.
The clash of opposing MVP contenders, with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the other side, began quiet enough. The "Greek Freak" had 11 points after one half, but after the Milwaukee win, the international import wound up with 27.
Clint Capela had 18 points and 13 rebounds, Austin Rivers had 13, and Gerald Green had 16 off the bench.
Houston (23-17) hosts East basement-dweller, the Cleveland Cavaliers, on Friday night.
The Houston Rockets are a dangerous team, which comes off as surprising given Chris Paul's absence from the court.
On Monday, the team dispatched the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets with ease, 125-113, behind a one-two punch from James Harden and Clint Capela, who earned a career-high 31 points.
Capela's output in the game was a welcomed change of pace for a team that leaned on Harden's scoring excellence over Houston's 14-game stretch that included 12 wins.
Houston's hot hands will face their second consecutive, significant test Wednesday night when the Rockets (23-16) host the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that has similarly surprised the NBA as one of its leading clubs this season.
Entering Wednesday, the Bucks boast a 28-11 record, trading Eastern Conference leadership with another hot team, the Toronto Raptors.
Milwaukee's success has been highly dependent on the muscular shoulders of the "Greek Freak," Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is chiefly responsible for the team's standing as the No. 1 offense in the league.
In addition, he's loudly made waves in the MVP debate this season thanks to his open-court scoring and thunderous drives to the basket.
Aside from that, the Bucks have made rebounding their calling card this season, also leading the league in defensive and overall boards. Their length in the front court behind Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton make them dangerous.
On Wednesday, Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni believes a deep run in the playoffs hinges on the same thing that Milwaukee has excelled from.
"The determining factor into whether we can go deep into June is defensive rebounding," said D'Antoni. "If we can do that, we will be better than everybody."
He admitted, though, that it's a work in progress. Houston is in the bottom five in rebounding and dead last in defensive boards.
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