James Harden scored 24 points while Dwight Howard contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds as the Houston Rockets defeated Washington 99-91 on Sunday, matching Memphis for the NBA Southwest division lead.
Harden, second to former Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook in a fight for the NBA scoring title, also added six assists for the Rockets, who won their fourth game in a row and improved to 50-23, level with Memphis for the second-best record in the Western Conference.
Howard missed the past two months with swelling in his right knee before returning last Wednesday. He remains on limited minutes for each game and will not play on back-to-back days, which means he will miss Houston’s game on Monday at Toronto.
Corey Brewer came off the Houston bench to score 15 points while Josh Smith added 14 points and 10 rebounds and Trevor Ariza had 13 points and eight rebounds against his former club.
John Wall led the Wizards with 25 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds while reserve Otto Porter and Bradley Beal each scored 15 points.
Washington fell to 41-33, fifth in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards fell four games behind Chicago for the fourth spot with eight games remaining.