James Harden’s sizzling scoring streak continues after the Houston Rockets guard dumped a career-high 61 points against the New York Knicks in front of an electric, sell-out crowd at Madison Square Garden.
Two things happened on Wednesday night in New York City. The Knicks blew another fourth-quarter lead to lose. Again. James Harden scored 30-plus. Again. But this time, the reigning MVP unleashed a career-high 61 points and scored every single point in regulation. Harden set an NBA record becoming the first player in history to attempt 20 three-pointers and 20 free throws in the same game.
The Rockets (27-20) won 114-110 and Harden scored a game-clinching dunk with less than four seconds remaining. The Knicks continued their losing streak with a seventh-straight loss and have now lost 20 out of their last 22 games.
Harden is averaging 52.2 points over his last five games, which includes three games with 57 or more points. This season, Harden is averaging 36.3 points with 8.2 assists per game.
61 at MSG
Madison Square Garden is considered one of the most famous arenas in all of professional sports. Between all the sporting events and concerts, the venue has seen some of the greatest performers in the world take center stage. When the Houston Rockets came to town, they did not fail to disappoint fans. The Knicks were 10-35 and the second-worst team coming into the game. However, you couldn’t find a ticket because everyone wanted to see the James Harden Show.
“This is one of the historical buildings in the sport that we have,” said Harden about MSG. “Obviously, the fans are one of the best that we have in this league. And so it’s pretty cool to come out here and put on a show for them.”
Harden was coming in hot. He scored 30 or more points in twenty consecutive games, tying a record set by Wilt Chamberlin in 1964.
Everyone at MSG knew they were in for a treat. Harden dropped 36 points and equaled his season average by halftime. He added 25 points in the second half.
Harden struggled from three-point land and hit only 5-for-20 from downtown. He finished 17-of-38 overall from the floor and racked up 22 free throws (missing only three). Along with 61 points, Harden added 15 rebounds and 5 steals.
“I just feel like every time the ball leaves his hands it’s got a chance to go in,” said Knicks coach David Fizdale. “That’s greatness. He’s a great player. He didn’t just score tonight, he had 15 rebounds. He was going after this win. Five steals, four assists. And I thought we really challenged him and got after him.”
Harden tied the record for most points by a visiting player at MSG. Kobe Bryant torched the Knicks for 61 points. He also set an NBA record as the first 20-20 attempts player in history with at least 20 free throws and 20 three-point attempts in the same game.
Harden has now scored 57 or more points in three of his last five games. Last week, Harden unleashed back-to-back 50-plus performances. Harden dropped 57 points against the Memphis Grizzlies and then a couple days later, followed up with 58 points against the Brooklyn Nets in overtime.
“The guy is just good,” commented Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni.
Harden’s recent tsunami of scoring comes off a rare off night two weekends ago in Orlando. Against the Magic, Harden had a terrible night shooting from three-point range with a career-low 1-for-17 clip. He shot 5.9 percent from beyond the arc, yet somehow finished with 38 points. Since that night in Orlando, Harden is averaging 52.2 points per game.
Downed Rockets, Beard Steps Up
Harden’s torrid streak began in early December after the Portland Trailblazers held him to only 29 points on December 11, 2018. Since then, he’s scored 30-plus in 21 straight games. Technically, Harden has scored 32-plus in 21 consecutive games.
Season Average: 36.3
Career Average: 23.8
Season High: 61 @ NY Knicks 1/23/19
30-Plus Streak: 21 Games
40-Point Games (Season): 17
50-Point Games (Season): 5
60-Point Games (Season): 1
Harden stepped up his offense due to injuries to key players. Point guard Chris Paul (15.6 ppg) missed 21 games this season and has not played since before Christmas with a hamstring injury. Eric Gordon (16.1 ppg) missed ten games. Center Clint Capela, the Rockets second-leading scoring at 17.6 points per game, went down last week with a thumb injury.
The Rocket’s fourth-leading scorer, Carmelo Anthony, played the first ten games before the GM decided Melo would not work out. They finally traded Melo to the Chicago Bulls, who promptly cut the former All Star from the Knicks.
The Rockets return home for a three-game homestand. They host the first-place Toronto Raptors (36-14) on Friday. On Sunday, the Orlando Magic come to town and then the New Orleans Pelicans visit next week. Then the Rockets embark on a four-game west coast swing against Denver, Utah, Phoenix, and Sacramento.
Harden is still chasing the overall 30-plus scoring record. Wilt Chamberlin posted streaks of 25, 31, and 65-straight games with 30 or more points.
According to the South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas, the Houston Rockets are 10-1 odds to win the NBA championship.