Phoenix, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - The Phoenix Suns, like most of the league, can't seem to find an answer for James Harden.
Less than a month after Harden buried the Suns with a buzzer-beating jumper, the dynamic All-Star returned to Phoenix and posted a monster line to lead the Houston Rockets to a 127-118 win.
Harden went for 40 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists to help Houston move to 3-0 against the Suns this season. He started the fourth quarter with a four-point play and netted 20 points over the final 12 minutes to help put the game away.
"James played really, really well," praised coach Kevin McHale. "He's been playing at a high level."
Josh Smith scored 20 off the bench and Patrick Beverley totaled 15 points, six rebounds and six assists in the win.
Eric Bledsoe returned from a one-game absence and led Phoenix with 32 points, four rebounds and four assists. Goran Dragic added 20 points and P.J. Tucker scored 17 while doing an admirable job defending Harden on the other end, despite the result.
"He's a great individual player," Bledsoe said of Harden. "He made all the tough plays for his team like all great players do."
The Suns have lost five of six.
Markieff Morris scored the first four points of the third quarter before Beverley was pure on a corner 3. From there, the Suns rattled off 16 straight points before Beverley finally ended a prolonged scoring drought with a layup.
Beverley and Smith hit consecutive 3s later in the period to tie the game at 83-83. It was back-and-forth from there until Smith and Corey Brewer connected from deep on straight trips early in the fourth to give the Rockets a 102-95 lead.
The margin swelled to 12 points on three Harden free throws at 7:11. Phoenix drew back within five on Tucker's layup three minutes later, but Harden scored on four straight possessions after that. Brewer's corner 3 with a minute left proved to be the dagger.
The Rockets led 41-23 after the first quarter and appeared on their way to a lopsided victory before the Suns shot 12-for-18 in the second to make a game of it.
Suns center Alex Len missed the game with an ankle injury ... Prior to the game, Beverley was named to the Skills Challenge during All-Star weekend, replacing Washington's John Wall ... Both teams shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range ... This was Harden's second straight 40-point game. Only Thunder guard Russell Westbrook has consecutive 40-point games this season.