James Harden finished an assist shy of a 40-point triple-double and the Houston Rockets held on for a 117-109, back-and-forth win over the visiting New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday afternoon.
Harden finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, drilling 7 of 15 3-point attempts to keep the Rockets afloat while Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers shot a combined 2 of 15 from deep.
Harden sandwiched a pair of driving layups around two free throws in the fourth quarter to extend the Houston lead to 110-103 and keep the Pelicans at bay.
New Orleans finished with a 63-43 advantage on the glass but was undone by 23 turnovers that Houston converted into 29 points. Five Pelicans posted double-digit rebounds: Brandon Ingram (12), Derrick Favors and Lonzo Ball (11 each), and Zion Williamson and Josh Hart (10 apiece).
Ingram led the Pelicans with 28 points while Williamson added 21 and Hart 16. Westbrook and reserve Ben McLemore, each scored 22 points to help Harden with the scoring load while Danuel House Jr. posted a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds.
There were 14 ties and 10 lead changes. Neither team held a double-digit advantage.
The first half boiled down to the Pelicans' dominance on the glass and their lack of ball security.
Harden posted 14 first-quarter points. He scored 12 of the Rockets' 14 points during one span, contributing two 3s and two three-point plays.
But it wasn't until McLemore followed a Thabo Sefolosha corner 3 with a 3-pointer of his own that Houston fashioned a tie at 28, and when McLemore added a cutting layup with 44.8 seconds left, the Rockets carried a 30-28 lead into the second quarter.
Houston scored 13 points off 10 first-quarter turnovers by the Pelicans. New Orleans did a superior job of minimizing mistakes in the second quarter (four turnovers) yet maintained their authority on the glass, capping the first half with a plus-21 rebounding advantage.
The Pelicans grabbed 11 offensive boards, four by Williamson, prior to the intermission, and their 15 second-chance points came primarily at the rim, contributing to their 51.1-percent shooting by halftime.
Williamson had 15 points at the break. Ingram scored 16 points in third period as the Pelicans briefly seized control.
His 3-pointer with 7:19 left gave the Pelicans a 75-72 lead, but when McLemore sank two free throws with 0.8 seconds left in the frame, New Orleans' lead was down to 93-92 entering the fourth quarter.
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