James Harden and the Houston Rockets continued on a roll at the expense of the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night in the Smoothie King Center.
Harden, the NBA’s leading scorer and reigning MVP, scored 41 points as the Rockets won for the ninth time in 10 games by beating the Pelicans 108-104. New Orleans, which ended a five-game losing streak by beating Dallas 114-112 on Friday, hosts Minnesota on Monday.
It was Harden’s third consecutive game with at least 40 points, his seventh consecutive game with at least 35 points and his ninth straight with at least 30. He was joined in double figures by a pair of former Pelicans as Eric Gordon scored 21 and recently signed Austin Rivers added 10. Danuel House Jr. scored 15.
Anthony Davis, who had a season-high 48 points and grabbed 17 rebounds while playing nearly 43 minutes a night earlier, had 22 points and 11 rebounds for New Orleans, which was led by Julius Randle’s 23 points and 11 rebounds. E’Twaun Moore had 21 points and Jrue Holiday scored 20.
Harden outscored the Pelicans at the foul line, making all 14 of his free throws while New Orleans made 13 of 17.
“He’s the best (isolation) player in the world,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said before the game. “And I don’t know if you can say anybody else is better in the history of this league as far as drawing fouls and making plays in an iso situation.”
The Pelicans used their 14th starting lineup. Darius Miller, who had moved into the stating lineup three games ago to provide another 3-point shooting threat that might loosen up defenses, was sidelined by illness.
Moore moved back into the starting lineup after an 11-game absence, Tim Frazier went to the bench and Holiday moved from shooting guard to point guard. Reserve forward Cheick Diallo also missed the game because of an ankle injury.
The outcome demonstrated how the teams have gone in different directions since they met in the season opener and the aftermath of New Orleans’ eye-opening 131-112 victory in Houston on Oct. 17.
That was the beginning of a 4-0 start for New Orleans, which is now 16-21 as it struggles with the extended absence of injured starters Elfrid Payton and Nikola Mirotic, though Payton could return as early as Monday.
“We’re going to get some guys back and we’re going to be OK,” Gentry said.
Houston, meanwhile, struggled to a 1-5 start and was 11-14 before starting its streak.
The Rockets (20-15) led by one point after three quarters and extended the lead to 15 points midway through the fourth quarter before going cold.
Moore and Davis each made a 3-pointer to start a 12-0 run that got New Orleans within 101-98.
Harden made two free throws with 1:09 left and Davis had a chance to answer but made just one of two free throws.
House made one of two, and Davis dunked to cut the lead to 104-101 with 16 seconds left. P.J. Tucker made two free throws and New Orleans turned the ball over.