He's been a starter since coming to Houston, but with his history he still delights in seeing the guys off the bench playing as they did in the Rockets' 110-105 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
"Our starters didn't have a really good game up until the fourth quarter, but our bench gave us life," Harden said. "Our bench just took over, and that was the key to the game right there."
Harden had 21 points, Corey Brewer scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and the Rockets snapped a six-game skid to the Clippers with the victory.
It's Houston's first victory over Los Angeles since March 30, 2013, and just the second win in the past 13 meetings with the Clippers.
The Rockets opened the fourth quarter with a 15-1 run to take a 99-86 lead. With the second unit in, Brewer starred in that stretch, scoring 10 points, with two 3-pointers.
Brewer, who was traded from Minnesota in December, takes pride in being a spark off the bench.
"That's what they brought me here to do, come off the bench and bring energy," he said. "I score. I run. I play defense. Whatever it takes to win."
Houston didn't trail after that, but a 7-0 run by the Clippers got them within four points with 37.8 seconds left. Chris Paul fouled Harden hard after that and the two were separated after Harden stood inches away from him and yelled.
Harden made one of two free throws to make it 110-105 before DeAndre Jordan missed two free throws for Los Angeles and Houston held on for the win.
Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with 24 points and Paul and Jordan had 22 apiece in a game that had 15 lead changes and was tied 16 times.
Harden had a tough night shooting, going 4 for 13, but helped get things going for his teammates, finishing with 10 assists, highlighted by one with about four minutes remaining. He bounced a pass between Paul's legs and to Brewer, who dunked it. He was fouled and made the free throw to make it 106-93.
The Rockets tied a season high with 17 3-pointers and made 21 of 30 free throws.
"They got too many 3s," Paul said. "Threes and free throws is what they do, and we've always been successful in not letting them get both. But (Wednesday), they got everything."
The Clippers scored five quick points to cut the lead to eight with three minutes left, but Harden made a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired on Houston's next possession to push it to 109-98.
A scary moment came when Harden twisted his right ankle when he got tangled with Paul driving to the basket. He fell to the court clutching his ankle, but quickly got up and limped around for a minute before remaining in the game.
Harden was limping after the game, but said he hopes he can play on Friday with some ice and rest on Thursday.
Houston's big run to start the fourth quarter began with back-to-back 3s by Brewer and Trevor Ariza before a dazzling play that brought the crowd to its feet. Josh Smith grabbed a steal from Austin Rivers and dished it in front of Pablo Prigioni, who used one hand to bounce it between his legs and to Brewer, who finished with a two-handed slam.
A 3-pointer by Ariza pushed Houston's lead to five early in the third quarter when a 3 by Matt Barnes started a 10-2 run for the Clippers that gave them a 72-69 lead.
The Rockets took a one-point lead on a 3-pointer by Donatas Motiejunas with less than 30 seconds left in the third, but a driving layup by Crawford put the Clippers on top 85-84 entering the fourth.
A dunk by Jordan cut Houston's lead to 62-60 at halftime.
Clippers: Jordan, who is from Houston and played at Texas A&M, finished with 19 rebounds. ... Paul had 14 assists.
Rockets: Houston starting point guard Pat Beverley missed his second straight game with flu-like symptoms. ... Motiejunas had 18 points and Ariza added 17.
ON THE MEND: Clippers coach Doc Rivers said F Blake Griffin is feeling a lot better, but that he still isn't running as he recovers from surgery to remove a staph infection in his right elbow. He was cleared for light workouts earlier this week, but Rivers said there isn't a timetable for his return.
Clippers: Visits Memphis on Friday.
Rockets: Hosts Brooklyn on Friday.
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