So with the game on the line late, Houston's star was determined to atone for his earlier mistakes.
"I had to figure a way to make it even," Harden said.
Harden scored 35 points and his layup with 0.7 seconds remaining lifted the Rockets to a 113-112 win over the Wizards, sending Houston into the All-Star break with a season-best seven-game winning streak.
John Wall gave Washington the lead with a pair of free throws with 4 seconds left. Trevor Ariza fouled out when he pushed Harden to the ground on the ensuing inbounds pass. It was ruled a foul away from the play, giving Houston one free throw and possession.
Harden, who was 16 for 16 at the line, made the free throw before grabbing a pass from Chandler Parsons and driving into the lane for the winning shot.
Harden was asked to explain his work on the last play.
"Get to the rim and make the play," he said. "It's simple."
The Wizards had a chance to win at the end, but Kevin Seraphin's shot clanged off the rim.
Ariza had 11 rebounds and a season-high 32 points with a career-best and franchise-record 10 3-pointers to lead the Wizards.
"It's too bad, these guys deserved to win that game," Washington coach Randy Wittman said. "To have it taken from them like that, it's sad."
Houston won despite committing a season-high 26 turnovers that led to 24 points by the Wizards. The Rockets were helped by making 35 free throws while Washington hit only eight.
The Wizards trailed by 18 in the third quarter before a barrage of 3s from Ariza got his team back in the game. His 10 3-pointers were the most ever against the Rockets. Ariza was 7 for 7 on 3s in the third and made six in a 4-minute span late in the quarter, including three in an incredible 32-second stretch.
Five straight points, capped by a three-point play by Wall, put the Wizards up 110-108 with 2:21 remaining in the fourth. Houston had a shot-clock violation on the next possession, but Nene fouled out with an offensive foul on the other end. Harden made two free throws with 23.2 seconds left to tie it at 110.
Nene had 21 points, Bradley Beal scored 20 and Wall finished with 19 points, 14 assists and three steals.
Dwight Howard added 24 points with 16 rebounds for Houston, and Parsons scored 18.
An 8-3 run by Washington cut Houston's lead to two midway through the fourth quarter. The Rockets scored the next five points to stretch the lead before five quick points by Washington got it back down to two with 4 minutes left.
A 3-point shot by Beal got Washington within five with about 9 minutes left in the third quarter. The Rockets scored 13 straight points after that to extend the lead to 83-65. Harden had five points in that stretch, and he and Howard brought the crowd to its feet when Harden found the big man for a monster alley-oop dunk.
The Wizards missed shot after shot and didn't score four more than 4 minutes while Houston built the lead. They missed from long-range, mid-range and even botched two layups.
Washington finally ended the scoring drought thanks to Ariza. He made his second 3-pointer of the quarter with less than 5 minutes left in the third. He made three more 3s on consecutive possessions a couple of minutes later to cut Houston's lead to 90-79.
But he wasn't done yet, and made two more on back-to-back trips down the court to make it 93-87 with a minute remaining in the quarter. Wall got in on the fun on the next possession, sinking a 3 of his own, to leave Houston clinging to a 93-90 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Ariza seemed unimpressed by his big night.
"I was open and there were good looks and I was just letting them fly," he said.
The Rockets used a 10-3 spurt to regain a 52-46 lead late in the second. Howard and Harden each made two free throws in the last 30 seconds of the half to extend Houston's advantage to 63-54 at the break.
Patrick Beverley missed the game with an abdominal strain, and Jeremy Lin started in his place. ... Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon watched the game from a courtside seat. ... Ex-Rocket Clyde Drexler presented Harden and Howard with framed All-Star jerseys to celebrate their selection to this weekend's game. Harden is in the game for the second time and it's the eighth time Howard has received the nod.