INDIANAPOLIS — Paul George did the bulk of his work for the Indiana Pacers early on, and then Monta Ellis and Ian Mahinmi came through at the end.
George scored 16 of his 25 points in the first quarter and the Pacers overcame 34 points from James Harden to beat the Houston Rockets 104-101 on Sunday night
"This was exactly the kind of game we expected," Mahinmi said. "We knew we had to have this one tonight. A big thing right now is that we are still learning to play with each other, and we are getting better."
The trio worked well together to put the game away and keep the Pacers rolling on a playoff push.
Ellis scored 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting, including the go-ahead basket with 4:46 remaining to give the Pacers a 96-95 lead. Mahinmi, who tied his career high with 19 points, followed up with back-to-back baskets to give the Pacers a 104-101 lead.
Harden added eight rebounds and Trevor Ariza added 14 points for the Rockets, who have lost two straight.
The Pacers took a 16-point lead in the third quarter and appeared to have the game put away before the Rockets went on a run and took a lead early in the fourth quarter with a dunk by Ariza.
The Pacers are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. The Rockets dropped to eighth in the West and are trying to stay in the chase for the playoffs.
It was a solid effort in the second half for Houston, though.
The basket by Ariza in the fourth quarter came while the Pacers turned it over three straight possessions and the Rockets scored three straight baskets to take an 85-81 lead.
The Pacers extended a 10-point halftime lead at the start of the second half when George Hill made a 3-pointer and Ellis drove to the basket to put Indiana ahead 67-51.
But then Houston went on a 19-3 run. Trevor Ariza made a 3 and Harden made three more, including one to tie the game at 70 with 3:37 left in the third quarter.
Before that, the opportunities were few and far between.
"They're a very good defensive team," Houston coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "They do a great job protecting the paint and they're running you off the 3-point line and sending you to more people."
Houston recorded its second-lowest 3-point percentage in a game this season and was held to 21.2 per cent from behind the arc.
"They missed some open 3-pointers, but overall, I thought our 3-point defence was good," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "They hurt us and got back in the game in the third quarter when they went small, and James Harden really got going."
The Pacers used strong ball movement to take a 57-47 halftime lead.
Ellis and Miles each made 3-pointers during a 10-2 spurt late in the second quarter and Mahinmi scored to cap off the run to make it 55-42 with 1:41 left in the first half.
Rockets: Dwight Howard had 11 points and 10 rebounds. ... Houston was 2 of 18 from 3-point range in the first half and finished 7 of 33. ... Forward Sam Dekker was out with lower-back soreness.
Pacers: George and Mahinmi each had 11 rebounds. ... The Pacers were 9 of 26 from 3-point range. ... Indiana shot 50 per cent from the field in the first half.
Rockets: At Cleveland on Tuesday night.
Pacers: Host Central Division rival Chicago on Tuesday night.