Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - NBA scoring leader James Harden poured in 44 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a 110-100 win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.
Harden was 10-of-21 from the field, including 3-of-8 on 3-pointers, and made 21 of his 22 free throw attempts to fill the stat sheet again four days after scoring a career-high 50 points against Denver.
"He was just solid," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said of Harden. "I've said all year, that we wouldn't have our record if he wasn't playing at an MVP level."
Josh Smith added 18 points off the bench and Donatas Motiejunas scored 17 in the win.
The Rockets, chasing Memphis for first place in the competitive Southwest Division, bounced back from a 117-102 loss to Phoenix on Saturday to get their fourth win in five games.
They shot 13-of-24 from 3-point range, including 3-of-6 in the fourth quarter to stay in front.
C.J. Watson had 23 points off the bench to lead Indiana and George Hill scored 20, but the Pacers lost for the sixth game in a row, including four straight at home. Roy Hibbert added 18 points and 10 rebounds and David West scored 10.
"Individually, we're not playing well enough and as a group we're not playing well enough," West said.
The Pacers, after trailing by as much as 21 points in the first half, pulled within two in the third quarter at the end of a 21-7 run keyed by five points each from Solomon Hill, George Hill and Damjan Rudez.
The Rockets pushed their advantage to eight entering the fourth quarter and were up by 14 with under five minutes to play. After the Pacers pulled within seven, Harden used a spin move on George Hill to get off a step-back jumper ahead of the shot clock buzzer, extending Houston's lead to 103-94 with 55.7 seconds remaining.
George Hill followed with a 3 for the Pacers, cutting the deficit to six, but that's as close as they got.
Indiana had nine turnovers in the first quarter, with Solomon Hill committing five of them. Harden scored 15 on 3-of-4 shooting from the field and 9-of-9 from the foul line, helping Houston take a 26-15 lead into the second.
The Rockets went up by 21 following a 17-5 run that began near the end of the first quarter and ended on Smith's 3-pointer 3 1/2 minutes into the second. The Pacers chipped away, getting as close as 11 before heading into halftime down 53-39.
The Rockets beat the Pacers 110-98 on Jan. 19 in Houston and have won three in a row in the series ... Houston remains on the road to play New Orleans on Wednesday ... Indiana goes on the road to face Washington on Wednesday.