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Nets end 14-game skid vs Rockets, clinch playoffs

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets clinched a playoff berth by beating the Houston Rockets for the first time in eight years, getting 32 points from Joe Johnson in a 105-96 victory on Tuesday night.

Shaun Livingston added 17 points for the Nets, who extended their home winning streak to 14 games, longest in their NBA history and tops in the league this season. They also pulled within 1 1/2 games of Toronto and Chicago for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Nets ended a 14-game skid against Houston with their first victory in the series since March 13, 2006. The Nets hadn’t defeated the Rockets at home since March 31, 2003, when they were still playing in East Rutherford, N.J.

James Harden scored 26 points for Houston, which lost its second straight following a five-game winning streak. Still without Dwight Howard because of a sore left ankle, the Rockets shot just 38 percent from the field.

Harden was 16 of 16 from the free-throw line. Omer Asik had 12 points and a career-high 23 rebounds while starting for Howard, while Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons each added 16 points.

The Nets held the NBA’s second-highest scoring team 11 points below its average and finished its non-conference schedule with an 18-12 record. The Nets are 30-12 overall since Jan. 1 and haven’t lost at Barclays Center in more than two months.

Brooklyn had six players score in double figures in its third win in a row overall. It was once again without starting center Kevin Garnett because of back spasms, as it was all March while going 12-4, as well as key reserves Andrei Kirilenko (sprained left ankle) and Marcus Thornton (back).

The Nets shot 59 percent in the first quarter, getting 11 points from Johnson in taking a 29-24 lead. Houston moved ahead for the first time midway through the second, but Brooklyn had an 11-0 spurt late in the half and took a 54-51 edge into the break.

The Nets opened their largest lead when Johnson’s 3-pointer made it 78-67 with 4:03 left in the third, but the Rockets were back within one before Johnson nailed another 3 with 45 seconds remaining to send Brooklyn to the fourth with an 83-79 advantage.

Brooklyn put it away midway through the fourth, re-opening an 11-point lead on a questionable goaltending call that gave a basket to rookie Jorge Gutierrez and earned Rockets coach Kevin McHale a technical foul for arguing.

NOTES: McHale said Howard had received another shot in the ankle, saying there was mostly soft tissue inflammation that hopefully would calm down. The All-Star center has missed five of the last seven games. … Brooklyn’s Jason Kidd was the Eastern Conference coach of the month for March, joining Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau as the only coaches to win two monthly awards in their rookie seasons. Kidd won for the first time for January.