Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - James Harden poured in 30 points and the Houston Rockets downed the New Orleans Pelicans 121-114 in a game with playoff ramifications.
The Pelicans had a chance to cut their postseason magic number to one after the Thunder lost to the Pacers on Sunday, but the Rockets shots 53.4 percent from the field and made 34 free throws to come away victorious.
"We found our rhythm offensively (in the second half)," Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. "We took care of the ball and found a way to get a win."
New Orleans and Oklahoma City are tied for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with two games remaining. The Pelicans hold the tiebreaker and will visit lowly Minnesota on Monday.
Dwight Howard totaled 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Corey Brewer added 20 points off the bench for the Rockets, who are a half-game behind the Spurs for the Southwest Division lead. Houston can pull even with a win in Charlotte on Monday, but the Spurs hold the tiebreaker.
Anthony Davis led seven Pelicans in double figures with 27 points. Jrue Holiday added 17 points and Ryan Anderson chipped in with 15 in the loss.
The Rockets opened the fourth quarter with a 14-5 run to take their first lead since it was a 13-11 game midway through the first quarter.
Brewer and Howard provided all of Houston's points during the four-minute stretch, with Brewer's driving bucket forcing the Pelicans to call a timeout after falling in a 100-91 hole.
The Pelicans adopted the "Hack-a-Rocket" strategy down the stretch, and a 12-16 effort at the stripe over the final four minutes sealed Houston's win.
Holiday beat the first-quarter buzzer with a 3-pointer to put the Pelicans in front 28-22, and the visitors led 55-52 at the break thanks to Anderson pouring in 10 points in the second frame.
Harden capped his 14-point third quarter with a late bucket that made it an 86-86 contest entering the fourth.
"Our defense at the end of the third quarter and beginning of fourth quarter, and Brewer's energy changed the game." Pelicans head coach Monty Williams said.
The Pelicans did not score any fastbreak points. Houston totaled 21 points in transition ... Omer Asik finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Pelicans ... Houston and New Orleans split the four-game season series.