HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden didn't let a tender ankle prevent him from returning to his new role as leader of the Houston Rockets.
Harden returned from an ankle sprain that sidelined him for one game and scored 31 points to lead Houston to a 99-93 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.
After suffering the injury Saturday against Dallas and missing Monday night's loss to San Antonio, Harden returned to lead the Rockets to their first victory under coach Kevin McHale in more than a month.
"That was the kind of James game where he just makes plays and attacks," McHale said. "James was the only guy that had a rhythm early in the game."
Harden scored 17 first-quarter points, going 6 of 7 from the field and hitting all four of his free throws.
"I was in the zone and I was feeling it," Harden said. "I was finding ways to hit shots and get to the line."
After matching a career-high 38 points on Monday night, Jeremy Lin had a subdued role in Harden's return, scoring just 10 points, while adding six assists and five rebounds for the Rockets.
"(Harden) came out on fire, and we rode his scoring for a while," Lin said. "It's not just me and him — there's five of us out there. We're just trying to figure it all out and find a happy medium where we kind of maximize everybody."
The Wizards threatened late in the fourth quarter, but Chandler Parsons scored eight straight points for Houston in the final three minutes, including two 3-pointers, to secure the victory. Parsons finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.
"It's frustrating because the first three quarters, I couldn't hit a shot," Parsons said.
It was Houston's first victory since McHale rejoined the team last Saturday after taking a leave of absence for almost a month following the death of his 23-year-old daughter. McHale left the team Nov. 10 to be with his family as his daughter's health worsened. Alexandra "Sasha" McHale died Nov. 24 of complications from Lupus.
Rookie Bradley Beal had 20 points to lead Washington, which had five players in double-figures, including four starters. Emeka Okafor, a Houston native, had a season-high 19 points for Washington to go with six rebounds, two blocks and two steals.