James Harden had 36 points to lead the depleted Houston Rockets to a 91-86 victory over the slumping New York Knicks on Monday night.
Houston (11-3) played without center Dwight Howard (knee) and point guard Patrick Beverley (hamstring), but Harden had half of the Rockets' 14 3-pointers to overwhelm the Knicks, who played the second half without star forward Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony left the game with less than two minutes remaining in the first half and did not return, suffering from back spasms, the team said. Anthony had 14 points.
Jose Calderon and Travis Wear both had 9 points for the Knicks (4-11), who fell to 1-6 on the road and suffered their 10th loss in the last 12 games. Despite leaving so early in the game, Anthony led Knicks scorers, and none of his teammates scored double figures.
Six other players scored at least 8 points, including five bench players.
The Knicks made only two field goals in the final five minutes of the game.
The Rockets won their 10th straight game against New York and their 19th consecutive game against the Eastern Conference at the Toyota Center, the longest active winning streak of a team against the opposing conference in the NBA.
The Rockets led by double-digits for parts of the first half, but a 7-2 run at the end of the first half helped the Knicks cut Houston's lead to 51-46 at halftime.
The Knicks' defense tightened up in the third quarter, holding the Rockets to just 18 points and climbing to a 69-69 tie to enter the fourth quarter.
In Anthony's absence, the bench rose to the occasion on the defensive end as Amar'e Stoudemire had three blocks and Shane Larkin added three steals.
Tim Hardaway, Jr., hit a 3-pointer with eight minutes and 50 seconds remaining in the game to give the Knicks a 78-72 lead, but Harden's scoring in the final minutes of the game proved too much for New York.
With Anthony in the locker room and Harden the game's most dominant scorer, the Houston crowd chanted, "MVP, MVP, MVP!" in the closing minutes.