HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden had 28 points and the Houston Rockets used a huge third quarter to turn a close game into a blowout in a 112-86 win over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.
Harden scored 16 in Houston’s 38-point third quarter, which turned a three-point lead into a 29-point advantage. He also got into a dustup with Evan Turner that resulted in both players receiving technical fouls.
Harden and Dwight Howard went to the bench for the fourth period and watched their teammates wrap up Houston’s fourth consecutive win.
David West had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers, losers of three straight for the first time this season.
Howard finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin added 11 points apiece for the Rockets.
The Pacers shot 6 of 18 in the third quarter with four turnovers and managed just 16 points — matching Harden’s total.
Paul George, who finished with 13 points, scored two quick buckets to start the second half and get the Pacers to 50-47. The Rockets scored the next nine points as part of a 16-2 run that pushed the lead to 66-49. Howard sailed high above the rim to grab a pass from Parsons, who threw it over a leaping Roy Hibbert, and finished with a two-handed dunk.
Terrence Jones starting things off with a 3-pointer before Howard and Harden combined for the rest of the scoring in that run.
After that, Hibbert made the second of two free throws after he was fouled by Howard. Hibbert crashed to the ground after minimal contact from Howard, and the play initially was ruled a flagrant foul before it was overturned on review.
Houston scored seven straight points after that, thanks to a pair of turnovers by the Pacers.
Parsons made two free throws before Harden grabbed a steal from West and sank a 3-pointer. A turnover by Lance Stephenson seconds later led to a dunk by Harden that made it 73-50.
That’s when things got heated.
Turner was fouled by Parsons after he stole the ball from Patrick Beverley. Turner pushed Harden with one hand at the end of the play. Harden immediately got in his face, so close it appeared they might be touching, and the pair exchanged words. They were quickly pulled apart while players from both teams yelled at each other.
The fracas didn’t do anything to slow down Harden, and he scored five points in the 10-3 run by Houston that followed, extending the lead to 83-53.
The Rockets led 88-59 entering the fourth.
Houston was up by 16 midway through the second quarter. The Pacers got going after that, outscoring the Rockets 19-10 the rest of the first half to cut the deficit to 50-43 at halftime. West had eight points during that stretch and George had a nifty reverse layup and a 3-pointer to help Indiana.
The Rockets led by one point with about 4 minutes left in the first quarter before using a 12-2 run to end the quarter and stretch their lead to 27-16.