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Rockets clinch playoff berth with 116-81 win over Kings

By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer

HOUSTON (AP) - James Harden scored 38 points and the Houston Rockets clinched the final Western Conference playoff spot with an easy 116-81 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.

The Rockets never trailed and had a 64-44 lead at halftime behind 16 points from Harden and 10 each from Dwight Howard and Michael Beasley.

They won their last three games to sneak into the playoffs after losing three of the previous four to fall behind Utah and into ninth place in the West. Houston will meet top-seed Golden State in the first round of the playoffs this weekend.

Ben McLemore had 24 points for the Kings, in what was likely coach George Karl's final game with the team amid reports that he could be fired as soon as Thursday. Karl went 44-68 since taking the job in February 2015, and this season is the 10th straight season in which the Kings did not make the playoffs.

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