Sterling Brown, who took Harden's spot in the starting lineup, had 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes.
It was obvious the end was nearing Wednesday, when the Rockets told Harden they didn't want him at practice after his inflammatory comments about the team.
The reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points by halftime, shot 17 of 24 from the floor overall and finished with nine rebounds.
NBA: John Wall, Rockets beat Kings without injured James Harden; 76ers extend unbeaten run over Hornets
Houston Rockets announced that James Harden wouldn’t play about 38 minutes before the game was scheduled to begin.
The Rockets were playing their first game with Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon, who missed the first two games due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
NBA: Indiana Pacers fire Nate McMillan after exit against Miami Heat, their second straight Round 1 sweep
The decision to fire Nate McMillan was a surprise, given Kevin Pritchard's 12 August announcement that McMillan had been given a one-year contract extension through the 2021-22 season.
Anthony Davis, who struggled in Game 1, led Los Angeles Lakers with 31 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in 29 minutes.
NBA Playoff: Orlando Magic upset top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers beat LA Lakers in series opener
Nikola Vucevic scored a playoff career-high 35 points and had 14 rebounds, as the Orlando Magic stunned the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks 122-110 in the NBA's fan-free Disney World bubble.
NBA: Kyle Lowry scores 33 points to lead Toronto Raptors to 11th straight win over Los Angeles Lakers
Kyle Lowry had 33 points, 14 rebounds and OG Anunoby scored 23 points as Toronto Raptors maintained their winning streak against Los Angeles Lakers since the 2014-2015 season.
Turner has not let the global pandemic stop him from undergoing his daily grind. In his spare time, he has also shown an interest in stock markets
NBA: Boston Celtics beat Indiana Pacers to secure playoff spot for sixth year running; Brooklyn Nets edge past LA Lakers
Jayson Tatum scored 30 points for Boston while Gordon Hayward added 27 points, 10 boards and five assists in his home state
NBA: Damian Lillard sets Trail Blazers record with 61 points; Kemba Walker powers Celtics to win over Lakers
Kemba Walker scored 20 points to end a career-long personal losing streak against LeBron James, and Jayson Tatum scored 27 to help Boston send the top team in the Western Conference to its biggest loss of the season
NBA: TJ Warren scores 21 points as Pacers hold on against 76ers; LeBron James, Dwight Howard power Lakers to victory
The Pacers have now beaten the 76ers twice in 14 days, this time after charging back from an 11-point deficit midway through the third quarter
NBA: Injured Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo hoping to make return against Chicago Bulls in late January
It's the first time since Oladipo sustained a season-ending knee injury last January that the team or the two-time All-Star has established a specific date
NBA: DeMar DeRozan shines as Spurs snap Bucks' winning-streak; De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield power Kings to victory
Milwaukee defeated the San Antonio Spurs 127-118 on Saturday at home but could not maintain its early momentum in a rare home-and-home set of back-to-back games
NBA: Jaylen Brown matches career-high points total as Celtics win; D’Angelo Russell stars in Warriors' victory over Suns
D’Angelo Russell had 31 points and six assists, and the Warriors rallied from 10 down in the fourth quarter to beat Phoenix for its fourth straight victory
Houston has won a season-high six games in a row and Harden has scored 36 points or more in five straight games to carry the Rockets
NBA: LeBron James sparks LA Lakers in comeback triumph against Chicago Bulls; Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks win
LeBron James scored 30 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and passed off 11 assists on Tuesday, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 118-112 comeback NBA victory at Chicago with his third consecutive triple double.
NBA: LeBron James posts second straight triple double to lead Los Angeles Lakers past San Antonio Spurs
Davis had 25 points and 11 rebounds, LeBron added 21 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds and Los Angeles Lakers held off the San Antonio Spurs 103-96 on Sunday night.
NBA: Zion Williamson continues pre-season hot-streak as Pelicans beat Jazz; Giannis Antetokounmpo powers Bucks to victory
Williamson scored five of the Pelicans' first seven points, including his first 3-pointer of the preseason. He finished the first half with 10 points, but was even better after the break