The Rockets, who had lost eight of nine and trailed by double digits in 12 straight games, led almost all the way this time. Harden scored 10 points and Patrick Patterson had six during a 16-2 run early in the third quarter as Houston took control, going ahead 64-46.
The Hornets never got closer than 10 the rest of the way, losing for only the third time in their last 10 games.
Harden, chosen as an All-Star reserve for the Western Conference on Thursday, handed out eight assists and was 12 for 12 on free throws.
Patterson added 18 points and a season-high 13 rebounds. Jeremy Lin had 13 points and eight assists for Houston, matching his assist total from the previous three games combined.
Eric Gordon scored 20 points for New Orleans, which shot 38.8 percent. Ryan Anderson added 19 points off the bench, but point guard Greivis Vasquez had a season-low two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
Harden, who did almost all his damage on drives to the basket in the first half, sank two 3-pointers during Houston's decisive spurt in the third quarter. He also hit a tough pull-up jumper to give the Rockets a 64-46 lead with 6:47 left.
The Hornets made one run in the fourth, cutting the deficit to 85-75 on Al-Farouq Aminu's follow dunk, but Houston's Carlos Delfino responded with a 3-pointer. After Anderson converted a three-point play to pull the Hornets within 10 again, Aminu missed badly on a shot that would have gotten them closer and Harden drove to the basket for his own three-point play to make the score 91-78 with less than 3 minutes left.
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The Hornets shot 37.5 percent in the first half but took advantage of 14 Rockets turnovers
-- seven by Harden -- to remain within striking distance. Five of the miscues came in a little more than 2 minutes as New Orleans cut a 36-26 deficit to 38-36.
The Rockets went back up 48-40 by halftime.
Harden helped the Rockets emerge from their losing skid by being aggressive as they took the lead for good early in the first quarter. He drove for a layup and hit a floater in the lane to tie the score at 11. He dribbled through the lane and converted a three-point play to put the Rockets ahead 14-11, then hit four free throws to stretch the lead to 22-16.
Houston ended the first quarter with five points on one possession. Greg Smith was fouled as he made a putback with 6 seconds left. He missed the free throw, but Houston grabbed the rebound and Delfino drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with 1.3 seconds left to give the Rockets a 27-18 lead.
NOTES: The teams completed their season series, with the Rockets winning three of four. ... A nifty pass to Anthony Davis for a monster dunk in the second quarter was Gordon's first assist in seven quarters.
... The Rockets started a stretch of four games in six days, with three on the road.
Press; By GUERRY SMITH]
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