HOUSTON (AP) – James Harden scored a season-high 45 points, including 18 in the third quarter, and the Houston Rockets beat the Indiana Pacers 110-98 on Monday.
It was the 18th 30-point game and fourth with 40 this season for Harden, the NBA’s leading scorer. He bounced back after scoring just 11 in a 131-106 loss to Golden State on Saturday.
Houston led by 10 at halftime and used a 33-point third quarter, thanks in large part to four 3-pointers from Harden, to push the lead to 20 entering the fourth.
The Pacers outscored Houston 30-21 in the final period, and a 5-0 run got them within eight with 2 1/2 minutes left. But Harden scored seven points after that to secure the victory.
C.J. Miles had 23 points to lead the Pacers, who have lost five straight.
Harden finished one point shy of his career high. Dwight Howard had 14 points and 17 rebounds for the Rockets.
Corey Brewer’s jump shot to start the fourth quarter stretched Houston’s lead to 91-68. Indiana answered with a 13-4 run to cut the deficit to 95-81 with 8 minutes left.
Roy Hibbert cut Houston’s lead to nine with a dunk midway through the third quarter before a 19-4 run by the Rockets pushed it to 86-62 with 2 minutes left in the period. Harden was unstoppable during that stretch, hitting three 3-pointers in just more than a minute late in the run. The Pacers missed five shots and turned the ball over twice as Houston padded the lead.
Harden made four of six 3-pointers in the third quarter and almost had a fifth one. He stepped in front of a bad pass by Luis Scola with a second remaining and launched a shot from well beyond the 3-point line that swished through the net. But officials ruled that he didn’t get it off in time.
The Rockets were up 88-68 at the end of the third.
Indiana had cut the lead to six early in the second quarter when Brewer outscored the Pacers 6-2 over the next minute and a half to make it 35-25. He made two jump shots before capping the run with a dunk after a steal by Josh Smith.
The Pacers were down by 12 later in the quarter when they used a 13-2 spurt to get to 41-40. Donald Sloan led the way in that stretch, starting the run with a reverse layup and capping it with a four-point play.
Sloan had back-to-back turnovers after that to help the Rockets start a 14-5 run that left them up 55-45 at halftime. Jason Terry had seven points to power that surge.
The Rockets led 11-2 early after making three 3-pointers in the first 3 minutes. Patrick Beverley made two in that span and Trevor Ariza hit the other one.
The Pacers were down by 13 later in the quarter before using an 11-5 run to cut the lead to 22-15.
Houston led 29-21 entering the second quarter.
Pacers: G George Hill, out since Dec. 31 with a groin injury, is improving and could play soon. Coach Frank Vogel said Hill will be re-evaluated Tuesday. … Ian Mahinmi had 14 rebounds.
Rockets: Brewer scored 13 for his ninth double-digit game with the Rockets. … Houston improved to 23-2 when leading at halftime.
Pacers: Visit Atlanta on Wednesday.
Rockets: Visit Golden State on Wednesday.
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