Amid a fourth-quarter collapse for his team, James Harden made the key plays Monday night and led the Houston Rockets past the visiting and hard-fighting Charlotte Hornets to the tune of 102-95.
The Rockets had a comfortable 79-69 lead with 8:12 to go in the game before the Hornets made a rally and tied the game at 88-all with over two minutes to go.
Jeremy Lin split from the line to give the Hornets the slimmest of margins, 89-88 but Terrence Jones and Harden made back-to-back three-point plays to gain back the 94-91 advantage for Houston with 31 seconds left. The Hornets never had a chance to seriously threaten again allowing the Rockets to run away with their third straight victory.
Charlotte has lost back-to-back games and are losers of four of their last five outings. Harden finished with a game-high 36 points including 16-of-19 free throws in a game that saw both teams troop to the line. The Rockets were 29-of-41 while the Hornets went 25-of-31 from the free throw line.
Patrick Beverley was the only Rockets starter who finished in double figure scoring with 11 points but their reserves played great as Jones had 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and Marcus Thornton added 13 points.
The Hornets struggled majority of the night, the starters combined to shoot just 15-of-51 from the field or just 29.4 percent. Kemba Walker led the way for the Hornets with 14 points but missed 7-of-10 field goals and also had 4 turnovers.
Charlotte has a chance to get out of their slump as they are set to play their next four games at home, versus the Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers.
Meanwhile, the Rockets want to match their longest winning streak of the season at 4 games when they visit the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.