James Harden delivered 44 points and 10 rebounds and the host Houston Rockets survived unsightly 3-point shooting in their 108-98 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.
The win allowed Houston to bounce back from an ugly loss at Golden State on Christmas.
Harden's floater with 6:51 left to play put Houston ahead to stay at 93-92, and his step-back 3-pointer with 42.9 seconds left stretched the lead to 107-98 and erased all doubt.
Russell Westbrook added 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists prior to his ejection inside the final minute. Austin Rivers tallied 14 points off the bench on 4-for-9 shooting on 3-pointers. But Houston shot just 13 of 42 from deep, perimeter struggles that enabled Brooklyn to remain close.
Spencer Dinwiddie paced five Nets in double figures with 17 points while adding a game-high 11 assists. Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen scored 16 apiece for the Nets, who shot 40.2 percent.
With all five starters watching from the bench, the Nets fashioned a spirited 14-0 run that bridged the final two periods.
Theo Pinson, who did not play in the first half, was the linchpin, scoring 11 points during a stretch that saw Brooklyn flip an 88-72 deficit into a 92-91 lead. The Rockets went nearly seven minutes without a field goal during that miserable offensive stretch.
But when they needed offense down the stretch, Harden was able to provide.
Harden and Westbrook combined for the opening 37 points for the Rockets, with Westbrook starting 5 of 6 from the floor before Harden tallied 17 consecutive points.
Houston stretched a two-point advantage to a 35-18 lead when Harden capped his individual run with a free throw at the 2:36 mark of the first quarter. It wasn't until Isaiah Hartenstein converted a layup with 1:34 left in the opening period that someone other than Harden or Westbrook scored for the Rockets.
Brooklyn was quick in erasing most of the Rockets' 22-point lead entering the second, taking full advantage once Harden sat.
Westbrook closed the first half 4 for 14 following his scorching start, and the Nets feasted on the Rockets' porous defense, shooting 13 of 27 in the second while posting 18 points in the paint. After producing 23 points in the first quarter, Harden did not score again until his finger roll with 1:12 remaining in the first half extended the lead to 61-52.
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.