There was no way the Rockets could do it the easy way. Easy was gone. They went instead with weird.

With a last shot in regulation to finally beat the Suns, and to clinch a playoff spot, the Rockets missed. And won anyway.

James Harden ran the clock down and launched a 3-pointer, missing at the buzzer. But with Patrick Beverley going high to attempt a tip-in, Suns center Jermaine O’Neal went up for the ball and caught a piece of the rim and ball for a goal-tending that lifted the Rockets to a 101-98 win. With the Jazz losing to the Thunder minutes after the end of regulation in Houston, the Rockets clinched a playoff spot for the first time since the 2008-2009 season

The 3-pointer gave Harden 33 for the night. He needed them with Luis Scola burning his former team for 28 points and Goran Dragic getting 15 points and 10 assists.

Until the final seconds, Scola would not let the Rockets take the win. With the Rockets going with Terrence Jones down the stretch as their latest power forward, Scola reminded them of the one that got away.

Scola scored 11 fourth quarter points, putting the Suns in front with a swift move inside and then giving them a 98-96 lead with 53.5 seconds left.

The Rockets set up Francisco Garcia for a corner 3 for the lead, but he missed. They got another chance, however, when Harden came away with the rebound and Lin went to the rim, drawing a foul on O’Neal.

Lin made both free throws with 35 seconds left and Rockets coach Kevin McHale went with Greg Smith on Scola.

Omer Asik blocked an O’Neal drive inside, but the Suns got another chance. Scola beat Smith with a spin move, but left his shot short, giving the Rockets 9.1 seconds to shoot for the win – one way or another.