Harden scores 39 points as Rockets beat Pelicans 122-116
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As usual, scoring comes in concentrated bursts for James Harden.
Harden scored 19 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter and the Houston Rockets beat the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans 122-116 Monday night.
The NBA’s leading scorer has averaged 40.6 points in his last eight games, but missed nine of his first 10 3-point shots. Still, with Houston leading by four midway through the fourth quarter, Harden lit his personal fuse and scored 13 consecutive points in a 1:57 span to push the advantage to 110-93.
“I wasn’t really getting to the rim,” Harden said. “The first three quarters I was settling and kind of just being passive. So, I just wanted to be more aggressive, whether it was shooting my shot or getting to the basket.”
Russell Westbrook had 26 points and Clint Capela added 11 points and 20 rebounds to help the Rockets to their fourth straight win.
JJ Redick had 24 points, Josh Hart scored 19, and Jrue Holiday added 18 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds for New Orleans, which played without leading-scorer Brandon Ingram due to a sore right knee.
The Pelicans could not overcome 12 first-half turnovers - six by Holiday in the first half alone - and 29% shooting from 3-point range in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve just got to start valuing the basketball and we’ve got to stop making the bad turnover,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “You shoot 45 threes - you’ve got to make more than 14 of them.”
The Rockets led 95-82 early in the fourth quarter on Westbrook’s dunk, but the Pelicans pulled to 97-93 on a four-point play by Redick. Harden then took control with his scoring burst.
“It’s go time,” Harden said. “The fourth quarter is winning time, so you’ve got to be more aggressive and make plays whenever they come to you, whether it’s my shot or getting to the basket, shooting my floater or making the right play.”
He started the run by splitting defenders for driving layups on consecutive possessions and then made back-to-back 3-pointers, including one for a four-point play. By the time Harden made two free throws to end the run, Houston led by 17 with 5:20 left.
“It’s what he does,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It shouldn’t have been (just a four-point lead). We have to close games out. We have to play better. We have to play smart, and tonight I didn’t think we did. Good enough to win? OK, but that’s not what we want to be.”
The Rockets committed 17 turnovers and shot just 29.3% from the perimeter (12 of 41).
Harden and Westbrook missing 14 of their first 16 attempts on 3-pointers, and finished a combined 4 for 19 from long range. But they did enough with mid-range jumpers and layups.
The Rockets built a 42-31 lead midway through the second quarter, but the Pelicans used an 18-9 run, with eight points coming from Hart, to trim the deficit to 51-49. Despite shooting just 4 for 19 from 3-point range, Houston led 58-52 at the half.
Harden struggled early from long range, missing his first four shots. The Pelicans stayed within striking distance on the strength of Redick’s 3-point shooting (4 of 6) for 12 first-half points.
Harden’s first 3 of the game put Houston up 68-57, but New Orleans went on a 17-7 spurt, with seven points by E’Twaun Moore, to cut it to 75-74. The Rockets closed the quarter by outscoring the Pelicans 15-8 to lead 90-82 after three.
Rockets: After allowing 126.8 ppg and going 3-3 to start the season, the Rockets have won four straight and allowed just 105.5 ppg. ... Harden has averaged 40.6 in his last eight games. ... Capela has 21 offensive rebounds in his last four games. ... In two games against New Orleans this year, Harden is 5 for 29 from 3-point range but has made 21 of 26 free throws. Harden has taken 141 3-pointers in 10 games
Pelicans: G Lonzo Ball missed his second consecutive game with a right adductor strain. ... The Pelicans used their seventh starting lineup in the last 10 games. ... Gentry gave the Rockets a free throw on a rare technical foul by picking up a wayward pass by P.J. Tucker before it rolled out of bounds.
WESTBROOK’S SHOOTING WOES
Although Westbrook was 1 of 8 from 3-point range, D’Antoni said he will continue to give him free rein.
“Russell is an MVP for a reason,” D’Antoni said. “He’s one of the best players in the league. You have to let him go. He’ll figure it out.”
In addition to his near triple-double and six turnovers, Holiday shot 0 for 7 on 3-pointers.
“Just keep pushing,” he said. “I feel that everybody just goes through slumps. Not shooting efficiently, missing easy buckets to the rim, my 3-point shot not falling. . I can produce in other ways.”
Rockets: Host the LA Clippers on Wednesday night.
Pelicans: Host the LA Clippers on Thursday night.