- Associated Press - Monday, March 24, 2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The Houston Rockets hadn’t been very good lately with Dwight Howard on the court, and downright lethal with him on the sidelines.

But that all changed Monday night.

James Harden stayed hot, Howard provided a boost on defense and the Rockets won their fourth straight game 100-89 to cool off the surging Charlotte Bobcats.

Harden scored 31 points and Howard battled through foul trouble and a head cold he picked up over the weekend to chip in with 10 points and 10 rebounds, handing the Bobcats only their second loss in the last 11 games at home.


Houston had lost three straight before Howard decided to sit out and rest a nagging ankle injury. The Rockets quickly started rolling without him, winning the next three games by an average of 23 points.

Dwight is a great talent and you figure a way to get him in,” Harden said. “He didn’t score the ball well tonight, but he had 10 rebounds and did so many other things, He held Al Jefferson to a fewer amount of points. It doesn’t always show up in the stat sheet, but we know how important he is to our team.”

Jefferson still finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds for Charlotte, but many of those came when Howard was sitting out after picking up a pair of offensive fouls - his third and fourth of the game - in the third quarter.

“I was trying to play through (being sick) and the conditioning, but the important part is we got the win,” Howard said.

Terrence Jones added 18 points and seven rebounds in the victory and Chandler Parsons and Patrick Beverly had backbreaking 3-pointers on consecutive possessions in the final two minutes to seal the victory.

The Rockets (48-22) entered 1 ½ games behind the Los Angeles Clippers in the race for third place in the Western Conference and riding a wave of confidence having shot 54.7 percent during the recent three-game win streak.

The turning point came late in the third quarter with the Bobcats leading 66-65.

Harden took over, helping Houston close the quarter with a 13-2 run to build a double-digit lead. Harden scored 10 points during that crucial stretch, including a breakaway left-handed dunk and a fall away 3-pointer. He was fouled another 3-point attempt and sank all three shots.

The Bobcats got to within five on a jumper by Jefferson in the lane, but Parsons and Beverly each hit 3s to push the lead to 98-87 with one minute left in the game.

Chandler made a really big transition 3 and Pat made a big 3 in the corner that kind of sealed the game,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.

Kemba Walker had 22 points to lead Charlotte.

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