JAMES HARDEN extended his streak of consecutive 30-point games to 27 as the Houston Rockets defeated the host Phoenix Suns, 118-110, on Monday.
Harden finished with 44 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. His 30-plus-point scoring streak is the third-longest in NBA history, behind two by Wilt Chamberlain.
The Houston star shot 15-of-26 from the floor and 9-of-11 from the free-throw line to help send the reeling Suns to their season-worst 11th consecutive setback.
Harden scored 22 points before halftime and was the only member of the Rockets to reach double figures prior to the intermission. The Rockets fashioned a more balanced scoring attack in the second half, as Kenneth Faried wound up with a double-double (17 points, 14 rebounds) while James Ennis III added 13 points and Chris Paul chipped in with 18 points, five rebounds, five steals and four assists.
It was Harden’s 20th 40-point game on the season.
The Rockets never trailed, with Phoenix last forging a tie at 38-all on a Jamal Crawford three-pointer at the 8:56 mark of the second quarter. Houston extended to a double-digit lead at 57-46 on an Austin Rivers three-pointer just over five minutes later, and the visitors withstood a number of spirited Suns challenges.
Phoenix second-year forward Josh Jackson was the linchpin behind several of those runs. His three-pointer during a burst early in the third quarter helped the Suns slice the deficit to 65-60, only for the Rockets to respond with a 21-8 rally, with Harden scoring eight during that stretch.
Jackson scored 25 points while Kelly Oubre Jr. added 23 off the bench for the Suns. Rookie center Deandre Ayton paired 15 points with 11 boards, and Devin Booker had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Suns, who shot 53.6% from the floor overall but missed 18-of-25 three-point attempts.
Harden picked up two fouls early in the first quarter but remained in the game. He started 3-of-3 from the floor and posted 12 points in the period to pass former Rockets forward Otis Thorpe (17,600) for 82nd place on the career scoring list. Harden later passed Rolando Blackman (17,623) for 81st place.
In other results, the Detroit Pistons beat the Denver Nuggets, 129-103; the Milwaukee Bucks over the Brooklyn Nets, 113-94; the Indiana Pacers over the New Orleans Pelicans, 109-107; and the Atlanta Hawks over the Washington Wizards. — Reuters