One night after laying a 10-point egg in a loss at Brooklyn, James Harden came out looking to redeem himself against the Washington Wizards. Harden scored 42 points on 13-23 shooting, including 5-9 from deep to go along with 9 rebounds 7 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks to lead the Rockets to a 109-103 victory over the Wizards.
The Rockets started fast, as they got got a quick 5 points in the first period from Corey Brewer, who started in place of the injured Trevor Ariza. The Rockets also went to Clint Capela on the inside for two alley-oops and a layup off a pick and roll, while Harden started hot as well. James scored 10 points on 4-5 shooting in the opening frame.
The Rockets also looked good on defense to start, holding the Wizards to just 28 percent shooting in the first as they jumped out to an early 30-17 lead.
Donatas Motiejuans started the second period for the Rockets, and while he scored his first bucket of the season off a hook from the paint, he also committed 3 personal fouls in under 3 minutes and had to take a seat.
The rest of the Rockets, meanwhile, were knocking down shots from deep, as Patrick Beverley, Marcus Thornton and Harden all hit triples to put the Rockets up by 15.
The Wiz, however, battled back behind the stellar play of John Wall and a few key shots from Bradley Beal to go on an 8-2 run and cut the Rockets lead to 6 at 53-47, before Beverley drained another bomb from downtown to put the Rockets up 56-47 at the half.
Harden had 19 points after two quarters, and the Rockets were shooting 47.7 percent from the field, including 8-16 from three. The Wiz only shot 38.6 percent for the half, but their 30-point second quarter got them right back into the game after their slow start.
The third quarter opened up with what appeared to be another Rockets imminent collapse. They turned the ball over 6 times in the first 5 minutes of the period, as Washington went on a 13-0 run to take a 63-62 lead.
The Wiz took further control at 76-72 behind Wall and Marcin Gortat, but Harden stepped up and carried the Rockets through the back half of the third period. The Beard poured in 17 points in the quarter, most of them in second half of the frame, to keep the Rockets within striking distance at 83-82.
Harden had 36 points at the end of the third, while the Rockets as a team gave up 36 to Washington, giving up back-to-back 30-point quarters after a solid defensive start.
The two teams would battle back and forth throughout the fourth, with the Wizards riding Wall, Garrett Temple and Beal, while the Rockets continued to get hot play from Harden and Beverley. Jason Terry also provided a fourth quarter spark, dropping 7 points in the frame to help supplement the scoring from Harden.
After a Harden 3-point play put the Rockets up 102-99 with just 2:13 left to play, John Wall knocked down a jumper to bring the Wizards within a single point, and it was then the Rockets rediscovered the defensive intensity of the first quarter.
Houston had 4 consecutive stops on the Wizards down the stretch, including forcing 2 turnovers to ice the game in crunch time 109-103.
In addition to Harden's big night, Brewer finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, Beverley finished with 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 threes, and Clint Capela had 10 points and 5 boards.
Dwight Howard had just 4 points and 9 rebounds on only 4 shots from the field, one night after just 5 field goal attempts in Brooklyn. The Rockets have to look for more ways to get him involved. Motiejunas committed 5 fouls in just 9 minutes of action, and he looks a ways away yet from full game shape.
Wall led the Wizards with 26 points and 12 assists, and Washington also got 18 points and 13 rebounds from Gortat and 13 points from Beal.
The Rockets move to 11-12 on the season and look to get to .500 on Saturday at home against the 3-18 L.A. Lakers.