Harden has 20 points in 4th quarter as Rockets beat Suns
PHOENIX — James Harden scored 20 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter and the Houston Rockets pulled away to beat the Phoenix Suns 127-118 on Tuesday night.
Josh Smith added 20 in the highest-scoring game of the season for the Rockets, who trailed 89-88 at the end of the third quarter after Phoenix rallied from an early 18-point deficit.
Eric Bledsoe scored 32, one shy of his career high, for the Suns, who enter the All-Star break losers of five of their last six.
Harden ended the first and second quarters with a 3-pointer, then opened the fourth with a four-point play that put the Rockets ahead for good. He scored eight in a row during a 2 1/2 minute stretch late in the fourth. He scored 45 – one shy of his career high – in a loss to Portland on Sunday and has six games of at least 40 points this season.
Houston, winner of seven of nine, has one game before the break, Wednesday night against the Clippers in Los Angeles.
In the fourth quarter, Harden, the NBA’s leading scorer at more than 27 points per game, made seven of 10 shots – most on drives to the basket, was 1 of 3 on 3-pointers, and sank all five of his free throws. He also matched his season high with 12 rebounds in the game.
The Rockets shot 75 percent (15 of 20) in the fourth.
The 127 points were the most Phoenix has allowed in a non-overtime game this season.
Goran Dragic added 20 points for the Suns.
With Phoenix leading 89-88 to start the fourth, Harden sank a 3 from the top of the key, fell on his behind, as he does on almost every jumper, and Marcus Morris was called for the foul. Harden made the free throw and the four-point play put Houston up by three.
Bledsoe’s 3 cut the Houston lead to 96-95, then Smith and Corey Brewer made 3s, Brewer scored on a rebound, Harden made three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point try, and the Rockets were up 104-95.
Down by 18 at the end of the third quarter and nine at the half, the Suns opened the second half with a 20-3 outburst. The Rockets missed nine shots in a row and Bledsoe’s 19-footer put the Suns up 81-73 with 5:38 left in the quarter.
Houston regrouped for a 15-5 run and Smith’s dunk on a pass inside from Harden put the Rockets back on top 85-83.
Phoenix’s Gerald Green and Houston’s Kostas Papanikolaou traded 3s before Isaiah Thomas’ 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left gave the Suns their one-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
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