HOUSTON » James Harden scored a career-high 50 points with 10 rebounds to lead the Houston Rockets to a 118-108 win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night.
Harden eclipsed his previous career-best of 46, set in 2013, on a free throw with about a minute remaining. On Houston’s next possession, Trevor Ariza found him in the corner and he swished a 3 under heavy pressure, to make it 50.
Six straight points by the Nuggets cut the lead to 8 with about five minutes left when the Rockets made the next five points, capped by a step back jump shot from Harden, to make it 104-91. Harden scored seven points after that to secure the victory.
It was the 29th game with at least 30 points and seventh with 40 this season for Harden, who entered the game second in NBA scoring. He bounced back from a tough shooting game on Tuesday, where he had 17 points, by scoring 22 before halftime on Thursday night.
Houston made 32 free throws in this game, led by 22 by Harden, which were the most made by a player in the NBA this season.
Wilson Chandler and Randy Foye scored 23 points each for the Nuggets, who dropped to 0-4 against Houston this season.
The Rockets led by 17 after three, but with Harden on the bench, the Nuggets used an 11-2 run to open the fourth quarter and get within 92-84 with 8 1/2 minutes left.
Houston’s star came in and helped the Rockets go on a 7-1 run to extend the lead to 99-85 midway through the quarter.
The Rockets already had a big lead in the third quarter when they scored seven straight points, with five from Harden, to make it 76-58 midway through the quarter.
Denver got going after that, using a 14-5 spurt to cut the lead to 81-72 with about 3 1/2 minutes left in the third. Foye led the way in that stretch, making the last 10 points, capped by a pair of 3-pointers.
Harden scored six of the points in a 9-1 run the Rockets used to close out the quarter and make it 90-73 entering the fourth.
Harden made each of his eight free throws in his 16-point third quarter.
Houston led 65-49 at halftime.
Nuggets: Ty Lawson had 10 assists. … Kenneth Faried had 19 points and 12 assists.
Rockets: F Terrence Jones injured his rib in the first quarter and didn’t return. … C Dwight Howard remains out with swelling in his right knee, but said on Wednesday that he’s ‘pretty close’ to returning. Howard hasn’t played since Jan. 23, but has returned to practice in the last week. … G Jason Terry sat out with a sore left hamstring.
Nuggets: Visit the Heat on Friday.
Rockets: Hosts the Suns on Saturday.