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…