WASHINGTON • Aggression fuelled Houston Rockets guard James Harden one night after an admittedly passive performance while another slow start ultimately doomed the Washington Wizards.
Harden scored 42 points and outduelled guard John Wall as the Rockets outlasted the Wizards for a 109-103 National Basketball Association (NBA) win on Wednesday.
Barely 24 hours after scoring a season-low 10 points in the 105-110 loss at the Brooklyn Nets, Harden recorded his eighth game this season with at least 30 points.
He made 13 of 23 shots with five three-pointers and 11 of 12 free throws. His statistic-filled night included nine rebounds and seven assists for the Rockets (11-12).
They have now won four of their last five games.
+32 James Harden's improved points haul in Washington after his season-low 10 in Brooklyn
"There's a thing between missing shots and not being aggressive," Harden said. "(Tuesday) night, I wasn't aggressive at all. I wanted to come out here and be aggressive."
His three-point play with 2min 13sec left broke a 99-99 tie.
After each team traded baskets, Wall's turnover led to Harden assisting on forward Corey Brewer's fast-break layup for a 106-101 lead with 40.8sec left.
"Over and over and over again, he's made those types of plays for us," Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of the 2015 NBA Most Valuable Player runner-up.
"There's a reason why he is the player that he is. He's that player in clutch moments. You don't win games without a guy like that."
Brewer scored 15 points and guard Patrick Beverley had 14.
Wall neared triple-double territory with 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.
But the Wizards (9-11) could not keep up in the final minutes.
The early minutes at home proved an issue once again for Washington. Houston led by 13 points after the first quarter and 56-47 at half-time.
Washington turned the game with a 13-0 run early in the third quarter but Randy Wittman's post-game comments focused on the first quarter.
"We are digging ourselves in too big a hole by playing too cool and too soft at the start of the game," said the coach.
Told of his coach's remarks, Wall said: "I ain't soft and I know my team-mates aren't soft.
"We just have to come out with a sense of urgency. That has nothing to do with being soft."
Guard Bradley Beal had 15 points as all five Washington starters scored in double figures for the first time this season.
The Wizards have alternated wins and losses in their last six games and are 3-7 since Nov 24.