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Houston Rockets

James Harden drops 40 points as Houston Rockets hold off Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans

James Harden bounced back from his recent scoring slump, pouring in 40 points to lead the Houston Rockets to a hard-fought 117-109 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

With the win, the Rockets improve to 31-18 on the season, while, the Pelicans fall to 20-30, with their three-game win streak coming to an end.

Here are the key takeaways from today's game.

Harden re-discovers shooting touch

After a recent tough stretch shooting the ball, Harden was in the zone against the Pelicans, falling just one assist shy of a triple-double, adding 10 rebounds and nine assists on the night. He shot an efficient 12-of-24 from the field and 7-of-15 from the three-point line and 9-of-9 at the free-throw line.

He did the bulk of his scoring in the first half, pouring in 26 points and five three-pointers to help the Rockets take a 65-60 lead into the break,

"[Harden] seems like he's back," Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni said postgame: "I can go home and go to bed now. Before, I wouldn't be sleeping much."

Harden has now scored 30+ points for the second-straight game after not reaching the mark in his previous four games.

He cooled off in the third quarter, only scoring three points as the Pelicans mounted a comeback, eventually taking a 93-92 lead entering the fourth quarter, thanks largely to the play of Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.

Zion continues to impress

The Zion Williamson show rolled on in Houston, with the #1 overall pick enjoying a productive night, playing a career-high 33 minutes.

In just his sixth regular-season game, he recorded 21 points and 10 rebounds - producing highlight reel play after highlight reel play, combining with Lonzo Ball for a pair of alley-oops.

"[Williamson] is very athletic, he's going to be a very great player," D'Antoni said post-game.

"I thought he was on a minutes restriction, but he played 17 minutes in the first half. ...That [restriction] is probably the only thing that's going to keep him down, because he's going to be a good player for a long time."

Williamson and Ingram powered the Pelicans comeback in the third quarter, with the first-time All-Star finishing the night with a team-high 28 points and 12 rebounds, while Lonzo Ball added a near triple-double of 10 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, adding three steals.

Josh Hart chipped in 16 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, while Jrue Holiday added 11 points and six assists.

Rockets go small ball

With Clint Capela missing his second-straight game and third in four games with a bruised right heel, the Rockets leaned into their small-ball lineup.

P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr. lined up in the frontcourt, with no player over 6-foot-6 starting the game for Mike D'Antoni's squad.

Their smaller lineup allowed for an increase in tempo and space, but they were made to pay on the glass as the Pelicans outrebounded them 63-43, with five different players recording 10+ rebounds.

Williamson, in particular, was a nightmare on the offensive glass, skying over defenders and hauling in misses, with the Pelicans scoring 10 second-chance points in the final seven minutes of the first half.

Although the Pelicans (44.7%) outshot the Rockets (39%) on the night, their turnovers came back to haunt them as the Rockets turned 23 turnovers into 29 points.

After taking a one-point lead into the fourth, the Pelicans couldn't find that same spark in the fourth, only managing 16 points on 5-of-22 from the field, with Harden and House Jr. lifting the Rockets down the stretch.

House Jr. put the result beyond doubt, draining a triple from the corner with 58.7 seconds reamining to put the Rockets up 115-107.

House Jr. finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Ben McLemore added 22 points and Russell Westbrok 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

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