HOUSTON – James Harden and the Rockets were determined to make up for their most lopsided loss of the season when they got a second shot at Indiana on Friday night.
Not only did Houston do that, but it handed the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers their biggest defeat in the process.
Harden had 28 points and the Rockets used a huge third quarter to turn a close game into a blowout in a 112-86 win over the Pacers.
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.
Dwight Howard and Harden went to the bench for the fourth period and watched their teammates wrap up Houston’s fourth consecutive win.
Indiana won by 33 the first time the teams met on Dec. 20 in Indianapolis.
“That’s all we talked about,” Howard said. “Every timeout and every possession. We wanted to get payback. It was good for us to come out (Friday) and stay on them for four quarters.”
David West had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers, losers of three straight for the first time this season.
“We’re just putting the emphasis on trying to get better,” Indiana center Roy Hibbert said. “Since the All-Star break we haven’t been playing the best basketball. We’ve been playing awful.”
Howard finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin added 11 points apiece for the Rockets.
Indiana 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.
Moments later, a turnover by Lance Stephenson 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.
Harden said he got in Turner’s face because he went too far.
The Rockets led 88-59 entering the fourth.
Celtics 91, Nets 84
In Boston, Rajon Rondo scored 20 points and the Celtics dominated the boards to beat Brooklyn.
Mavericks 103, Trail Blazers 98
In Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki scored 22 points and Devin Harris hit the go-ahead shot in the final minute for the Mavericks.
Bobcats 101, Cavaliers 92
In Charlotte, Al Jefferson scored 28 points, Kemba Walker had 20 points and 14 assists for Cleveland.
Grizzlies 85, Bulls 77
In Chicago, Marc Gasol had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Grizzlies past the Bulls.
Warriors 111, Hawks 97
In Oakland, David Lee had 18 points and six rebounds and reserve Jermaine O’Neal added 17 points and eight boards for Golden State.
Timberwolves 114, Pistons 101
In Minneapolis, Kevin Love had 28 points, 14 rebounds and five assists for the Timberwolves.
Raptors 99, Kings 87
In Toronto, Terrence Ross scored 18 points to lead the Raptors over Sacramento, spoiling Rudy Gay’s return to Toronto.
Knicks 108, Jazz 81
In New York, Carmelo Anthony scored 18 of his 29 points in the first quarter for the Knicks.
Pelicans 112, Bucks 104
In New Orleans, Anthony Davis had 29 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Pelicans.
Nuggets 134, Lakers 126
In Denver, Kenneth Faried scored a career-high 32 points and Ty Lawson had 30 for the Nuggets against the reeling Lakers.