HOUSTON — Guard James Harden scored on a driving layup with 0:07 seconds left to lift the Houston Rockets to a 113-112 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night at Toyota Center.
Houston (36-17) heads into the All-Star Game break riding a seven-game winning streak thanks largely to Harden, who scored 35 points and added six rebounds and six assists. Houston center Dwight Howard (24 points, 16 rebounds, three blocked shots) freed Harden with a screen before Harden converted his game-winning layup.
The Wizards (25-27) erased a 19-point second-half deficit and led 112-110 when guard John Wall (19 points, 14 assists) hit two free throws with four seconds left. But Wizards forward Trevor Ariza (32 points, 11 rebounds) fouled Harden before the ball was in play on the ensuring inbounds pass. Harden hit a free throw and Houston retained possession.
Ariza was one of three Washington starters to foul out in the fourth quarter, joining forward Nene (21 points) and center Marcin Gortat. Guard Bradley Beal added 20 points for the Wizards while Houston forward Chandler Parsons posted 18 points, 12 boards and six assists.
Houston coach Kevin McHale furiously called a timeout after the Rockets surrendered consecutive open perimeter looks to Ariza and Beal, the second 3 cutting the Rockets’ lead to 70-65. Houston responded with a 13-0 run and stretched its lead to 89-70 before Ariza caught fire and the Wizards shot their way back into contention.
Washington closed the third period with a 20-4 run as Ariza hit five treys over the final 3:18 and closed the quarter 7-for-7 from deep. Houston led 93-90 entering the fourth and scuffled down the stretch.
The Wizards relied on exceptional 3-point shooting and the Rockets’ benevolence to offset another torrid offensive start by Houston, one that included Harden and Howard combining for 23 points in the first quarter while missing just one shot from the floor.
Harden and Howard combined for 11 points as Houston darted to a 17-5 lead before Washington began to chip away. The Wizards whittled that deficit to six points before Harden closed the opening period with a flourish, completing a three-point play before beating the buzzer on a rim attack that gave Houston a 38-26 lead heading into the second.
With Howard resting on the bench, the Wizards made their move by attacking the paint and seizing the lead with a 15-2 run. Nene scored eight points during that run, six in the lane, with Ariza and Beal drilling 3s around the final Nene basket. Washington closed the half 6-for-14 from behind the arc and turned 13 Houston turnovers into 10 points.
But Harden and Howard continued their domination through the miscues, entering intermission with 38 combined points on 16 shots.
NOTES: With Rockets G Patrick Beverley sidelined due to an abdominal strain, reserve G Aaron Brooks temporarily rejoined the rotation against the Wizards. Brooks had played in just five of 10 games since Beverley returned from a broken right hand on Jan. 20, logging 60 minutes. Brooks leads Houston in 3-point shooting at 41.2 percent, but minutes have been tough to come by playing behind Beverley and G Jeremy Lin. … Houston C Dwight Howard entered Wednesday averaging 24.8 points and 11.5 rebounds during the Rockets’ winning streak. With that individual and team success came the jovial Howard who thrived in Orlando. “You’ve got to be who you are,” said Wizards coach Randy Wittman, who served as an assistant while Howard played for the Magic. “He’s a fun-natured guy. If you try to make somebody what they’re not, then you have a problem.”
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