Harden and Paul combine for 74 points as Rockets come back to win in Portland

At long last, the basketball world finally got a glimpse of James Harden and Chris Paul coexisting in crunch time.

Dennis Smith Jr. missed his second straight game with a left hip strain, and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle didn’t have a timeframe on when his rookie point guard might be able to return. Smith is going back to Dallas to see a doctor.

Harden hit 16 of 29 shots and grabbed eight rebounds, while Chris Paul scored 24 points and Trevor Ariza had 13 for Houston. The Rockets’ 20-4 record is the best by percentage in the NBA this season.

“We’re riding high right now. That’s great. We know we’ll have some bumps. We have a lot of things to figure out, but we just keep getting better and grinding it out,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said.

The highlight of Week 12 was a late Sunday game in Los Angeles, where the Rams, coming off a frustrating loss to the Vikings, cooled down the previously red-hot Saints. New Orleans failed to build a cushion in the NFC South and keep pressure on Philadelphia atop the NFC standings.

Sunday’s night cap was a game in Pittsburgh between two teams trending in opposite directions. The Steelers with their win were able to keep pace with the Patriots atop the AFC standings. The Packers with their loss fell further out of the NFC playoff picture.

The best season in Josh McCown’s long, circuitous career came to a premature end Monday when the New York Jets announced their quarterback will miss the final three games with a fractured left hand.royals_001