By rockets writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Houston’s James Harden dribbled along the perimeter for about 20 seconds while Pelicans guard Elfrid Payton hounded him, even briefly poking the ball away. But as the shot clock wound down, Harden suddenly rose for a 3-pointer and nailed it, eliciting an elongated “ooh” from the New Orleans crowd.
“We’ve gotten used to it,” Rockets guard Chris Paul said. “Elfrid is one of my closest friends who I know is an unbelievable competitor and a great defender. But there ain’t too much you can do about it.”
Harden scored 28 points in a little less than 29 minutes, and the Rockets downed the New Orleans Pelicans 113-90 on Sunday night for their 14th victory in 16 games.
Paul had 10 points and 13 assists, and Eric Gordon added 18 points for the Rockets, who combined to make 21 3s and moved a game ahead of Portland for the third seed in the Western Conference.
“We were professional tonight from the beginning of the game,” Harden said, noting that he appreciated the solid bench play that allowed him some extra rest. “It was great for us. We’ve had previous games where teams weren’t as good, or whatever you want to call it, and we kind of let up and we let one slip. So that was a good job from top to bottom, coming in and playing your role and handling...