HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden scored 35 points after missing the last game with an injury to lead the Houston Rockets to a 130-104 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.
The Rockets were back to full strength after Harden missed his first game of the season because of a sprained right toe in a loss to New Orleans on Sunday. Clint Capela (bruised heel) and Russell Westbrook (load management) also returned after sitting out on Sunday in the 127-112 defeat.
Houston pushed a small lead to a big advantage with a 19-3 run to start the fourth quarter. The Rockets were up by 17 when Harden scored five quick points, with a 3-pointer, to make it 118-96 with about 3 1/2 minutes left and end his night and that of most of Houston’s starters.
Nikola Jokic scored 21 points for the Nuggets, who had a two-game winning streak snapped.
Westbrook had 28 points for his 11th straight games with 20 or more points, which is the longest streak by a Rockets player besides Harden since Yao Ming did it in 14 games in a row in 2006.
The Nuggets used a 37-point third quarter to cut the lead to three entering the fourth, but the Rockets scored the first 12 points of the fourth to make it 104-89 with about 9 minutes left. Ben McLemore had two 3-pointers to power that spurt.
Denver got its first points of the quarter on a 3 by Torrey Craig after that. Houston then scored the next seven points, capped by a 3 from Harden to stretch the lead to 111-92 midway through the period.
The Rockets were up by 12 after a 3-pointer by Harden with about 7 minutes left in the third quarter. Jokic then scored four quick points to cut the lead to 78-70 midway through the quarter.
Houston remained up by eight later in the third when Harden, who had six 3-pointers, made three free throws to push it to 86-75.
The Rockets had pushed the lead to 10 with about 3 minutes left in the third before the Nuggets used an 11-4 run to cut the lead to 92-89 entering the fourth. Malik Beasley led the Nuggets in that stretch, scoring five points capped by a 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left.
Nuggets: Paul Millsap had 13 points and nine rebounds in his return after missing two games with a bruised left knee. ... Denver made 8 of 25 3-pointers. ... Monte Morris added 18 points off the bench.
Rockets: Eric Gordon scored 12 points in his second game back after sitting out for about six weeks following arthroscopic knee surgery. ... Capela had 16 points and 10 rebounds after missing the last two games with his injury.
Nuggets: Visit Indiana on Friday night in the second game of a five-game trip.