James Harden had come back from two games lost to a sore right foot, but his return and his success was expected, considered all along to be just a matter of time.

Chandler Parsons had returned from two days spent battling food poisoning, including the night he spent sick to his stomach, trying, and failing, to watch the Rockets on television. The Rockets, wanting to ease him back, needed him for 40 minutes, but that was not the comeback that had them talking.

Terrence Jones had spent the season racking up frequent flier miles to and from the D-League, practically making the trip from Houston to McAllen a commute. He had just returned from his latest and greatest stint with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on Monday and by Wednesday, was just the lift the Rockets needed to drive them past the Sacramento Kings, 112-102.

With the win, the Rockets reduced their magic number to clinch a playoff spot to three. They clinched their 18th winning season since 1992-93. Only the Spurs, with 20, have had more in that span, although the Jazz could get their 19th and Lakers their 18th.

The Rockets, however, were talking about the latest power forward in their rotation and his sensational 14-point, 12-rebound performance that was crackling with energy and highlighted by late-game plays when the Rockets finally secured the win.

“What can you say,” said Jeremy Lin, who had 15 points and 10 assists. “You’re a rookie. You go to the D-League 10 times. You don’t play at all and you come off the bench with a double-double and a huge road win. That has to feel great. I couldn’t be happier for stories and people like that because you spend months and months waiting for your turn. He really capitalized tonight.”

With Greg Smith getting in early foul trouble and Donatas Motiejunas and Thomas Robinson struggling in recent games, especially against size like the Kings’ combination of DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson, Rockets coach Kevin McHale decided during the day to give Jones a look. He said he had been impressed with what he had seen in Jones’ latest D-League stint and had little reason not to try something else.

“Terrence Jones did really well,” McHale said. “He had a great practice (Tuesday). I’m trying to give everybody a little different look at that spot and I thought it was (a chance) to give Terrence a chance.”