WASHINGTON (AP) Following his worst offensive performance of the season, the real James Harden returned in Washington on Wednesday night.
Harden had 42 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and gave the Houston Rockets the lead for good with a late three-point play in a 109-103 victory over the Wizards.
The night before, Harden managed only 10 points in a loss at Brooklyn.
''Great players rise to the occasion,'' said veteran teammate Jason Terry, who scored seven fourth-quarter points. ''(Tuesday) was probably one of his worst games he's ever played to date and so for him it was all about coming out tonight, being aggressive and getting off to a great start.''
Harden had 19 by halftime, then scored 16 alone in the third quarter to help the Rockets weather the Wizards' strongest period.
Even his lone blemish of seven turnovers was more forgivable within the context of the kind of performance that made him last season's MVP runner-up.
''You've got passive turnovers and you've got aggressive turnovers where you're trying to create and we just make mistakes,'' said Harden, who also had seven turnovers on Tuesday. ''I would rather live with the aggressive turnovers than passive and being soft.''
Corey Brewer added 15 points and Patrick Beverley had 14 to help Houston to its fourth win in five games and sixth out of eight.
John Wall had 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds for Washington, which trailed by as many as 15 in the first half and has lost six of its last seven at home.
The Wizards have led after the first quarter only twice in 10 home games this season, and trailed 30-17 after the first on Wednesday.
''I'm getting tired of having to come in at halftime and light a fire under this team,'' said Wizards coach Randy Wittman.
Asked to explain the starts, Wall said: ''If I knew, you would know, to be honest with you. I really don't know. It's just something we've got to figure out.''
Marcin Gortat tied a season high with 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in his first game back after missing three for personal reasons.
With the game tied at 99, Harden stepped back to hit 16-foot jumper over Bradley Beal, absorbed Beal's foul and hit a free throw to put Houston up by three with 2:13 left.
The Rockets had a 104-101 lead when Harden reached Wall's errant pass and fed Brewer for a transition layup to make it a five-point game.
''Over and over and over again he's made those types of plays for us,'' said coach J.B. Bickerstaff of Harden. ''You don't win games without a guy like that.''
Rockets: F Trevor Ariza missed the game against his most recent former team with a bruised lower back. ... F/C Donatas Motiejunas' leaner in the second quarter marked his first points since March 25, his last game before season-ending back surgery in April.
Wizards: Fs Nene (calf), Drew Gooden (calf) and Kris Humphries (ankle) were all out. ... Washington's 17 first-quarter points were its fewest in an opening period this season.
IN PERSON, ON SCREEN
Harden was about to give his postgame comments when his new commercial for Adidas popped on the TV. He delayed his remarks roughly 60 seconds, turned and watched intently while smiling and joking with Beverley.
''It was, to me, hard to believe that going to the Western Conference finals (last season), that after 11 games you would panic and make a change. But that's their decision.'' - Wittman on the Rockets' early season firing of coach Kevin McHale.
Rockets: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.
Wizards: Visit New Orleans on Friday.