So with the game on the line late, Houston’s star was determined to atone for his earlier mistakes.
“I had to figure a way to make it even,” Harden said.
Harden scored 35 points and his layup with 0.7 seconds remaining lifted the Rockets to a 113-112 win over the Wizards, sending Houston into the All-Star break with a season-best seven-game winning streak.
John Wall gave Washington the lead with a pair of free throws with 4 seconds left. Trevor Ariza fouled out when he pushed Harden to the ground on the ensuing inbounds pass. It was ruled a foul away from the play, giving Houston one free throw and possession.
Harden, who was 16 for 16 at the line, made the free throw before grabbing a pass from Chandler Parsons and driving into the lane for the winning shot.
Harden was asked to explain his work on the last play.
“Get to the rim and make the play,” he said. “It’s simple.”
The Wizards had a chance to win at the end, but Kevin Seraphin’s shot clanged off the rim.
“It’s too bad, these guys deserved to win that game,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said. “To have it taken from them like that, it’s sad.”
Houston won despite committing a season-high 26 turnovers that led to 24 points by the Wizards. The Rockets were helped by making 35 free throws while Washington hit only eight.
The Wizards trailed by 18 in the third quarter before a barrage of 3s from Ariza got his team back in the game. His 10 3-pointers were the most ever against the Rockets. Ariza was 7 for 7 on 3s in the third and made six in a 4-minute span late in the quarter, including three in an incredible 32-second stretch.
Five straight points, capped by a three-point play by Wall, put the Wizards up 110-108 with 2:21 remaining in the fourth. Houston had a shot-clock violation on the next possession, but Nene fouled out with an offensive foul on the other end. Harden made two free throws with 23.2 seconds left to tie it at 110.