By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) - James Harden scored 31 points, Dwight Howard had 16 points and 15 rebounds and the Houston Rockets never trailed in a 113-100 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, sending them to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1997.
It's the ninth time in NBA history that a team has overcome a 3-1 series deficit to win a playoff series.
The Rockets needed an epic comeback to overcome a 19-point third-quarter deficit and force Game 7. No such heroics were needed Sunday when they were up by 17 after three and Howard opened the fourth quarter with a 3-point play to push it to 88-68.
Blake Griffin scored five points in a 9-0 run to cut the lead to eight points with less than 2 1/2 minutes remaining. Harden made a pair of free throws after that, but a dunk by DeAndre Jordan got the Clippers within eight again. This time Trevor Ariza hit a 3 from the corner to secure the victory.
Griffin had 27 points and Chris Paul had 26 points and 10 assists.
The Western Conference finals begin Tuesday night at Golden State.
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