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Harden, Rockets hold off Knicks

NEW YORK (AP) - James Harden scored 36 points in his return to the lineup and the Houston Rockets withstood Carmelo Anthony's 45 points to beat the New York Knicks 109-106 Thursday night, giving Jeremy Lin another winning night at Madison Square Garden.

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Anthony had the highest-scoring game in the NBA this season and grabbed 10 rebounds, but it wasn't enough for the Knicks in their fourth straight home loss.

Chandler Parsons added 22 points and Lin had 21 for the Rockets, who beat the Knicks for the eighth straight time even on a mostly silent night from Dwight Howard, largely outplayed by Andrea Bargnani.

Howard had just seven points with his 15 rebounds, though he did make a pair of free throws with 1:15 left that gave Houston a five-point lead.

Harden, who missed the Rockets' 123-117 overtime loss in Philadelphia on Wednesday with a bruised left foot, scored seven straight Houston points for nine-point lead with 3:51 left. He finished 16 of 18 at the line.

But there was plenty of excitement left, including Anthony just missing a potential four-point play when the Rockets fouled him intentionally behind the arc leading by three with 5 seconds left.

Anthony threw the ball up and it went in, but officials ruled it came after Harden fouled him. Anthony made both free throws, but Harden answered with a pair to make it 109-106 with 2.9 seconds to play, and J.R. Smith was well off with a long-distance heave.

Bargnani scored 24 points for the Knicks and played surprisingly strong defense on Howard, who shot 1 of 5. Smith scored 15 points in his second start but shot just 4 of 16.

Lin, back to coming off the bench after starting Wednesday in Harden's place, helped pick up the slack with Howard's missing offense. He has won both games back at MSG, where he burst onto the worldwide scene two years ago during his memorable run of Linsanity.

The Knicks refused to match the Rockets' three-year contract offer to him months later, a risky decision that didn't hurt them last season when Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni manned the point and helped New York win a division title and a playoff series.

But Lin is on another nice roll now and came in after scoring 65 points in the last two games, the best two-game stretch of his career.

Houston led 28-23 after one and was starting to run away with it when it opened a 49-35 during Parsons' run of 11 straight Rockets points. But he didn't score the rest of the half after his driving dunk with 3:10 left, and Anthony and Bargnani combined for three 3-pointers during a 13-2 run to close the half and cut it to 53-52.

NOTES: Center Omer Asik didn't play for the Rockets after the Houston Chronicle reported he had requested a trade. He had been starting along with Howard until coach Kevin McHale scrapped the alignment. ... Rockets backup forward Greg Smith left with what appeared to be a right leg injury following an awkward landing after playing just 40 seconds in the first quarter.

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Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

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