The most-valuable-player candidate played a dominating role after deferring to Howard and role players in the first two wins, putting the Rockets on the verge of their first playoff series victory since Howard joined Harden two years ago.
The high-scoring game was Dallas' first without effectively banished point guard
But Ellis missed a potential tying jumper just before the buzzer, leaving Dallas to face a fourth straight year without winning a postseason series since taking the franchise's first championship.
Game 4 is Sunday at Dallas. No team has ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win an
Harden set his playoff career high and hit 40 points with a three-point play on a layup after Dallas had cut an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to one.
After Harden fouled Nowitzki on a three-point attempt and the big German hit all the free throws, Harden hit a jumper over
The Mavericks had one more chance, trailing by two with 6.7 seconds left, but Ellis wasn't close, missing to the right of the rim.
More concerned with protecting the rim after Howard and
Howard had 14 of Houston's 23 rebounds in the first half and helped on the offensive end in the fourth quarter, getting seven of his 13 points.
When Dallas focused on slowing Harden in the second half,
at Washington 106, Toronto 99:
Six Wizards scored in double figures, including
After the second, Pierce turned to the stands with arms aloft, nodded and yelled, "That's why I'm here!"