MVP candidate James Harden led the way with 26 points Wednesday night as the Houston Rockets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 110-99, extending their winning streak to 17 games.

Houston Rockets winning streak
Led by MVP candidate James Harden, the Houston Rockets continue to roll, having now won 17 straight games. (Image: Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today)

The Rockets now have a record of 51-13, putting them one game ahead of the Golden State Warriors for the league’s best mark. The 17-game winning streak is also the longest in the NBA this season.

“We’re not worried about wins and losses right now,” Harden told reporters after the game. “We’re worried about playing the right way on both ends of the floor and that’s going to carry over into the postseason. More times than not, 90 percent of the time, if you play the right way on both ends of the floor great things will happen.”

New Ways to Win Nightly

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the winning streak is how the team has found different ways to win every night. While reliance on the three-pointer has been a constant – the Rockets fire nearly 42 threes per night, hitting 37 percent of them – Houston has seen several different players step up and play key roles on a night-to-night basis.

“A lot of guys have been out, like tonight Joe Johnson and Ryan Anderson,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Yet we’re able to win and that’s been because of our depth and the guys that we have.”

On Wednesday, the Rockets had five players in double figures. Chris Paul added a double-double with 16 point and 11 assists, while Eric Gordon scored 18 points, including two clutch three-pointers to answer an 11-0 run from the Bucks late in the third quarter.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks, scoring 30 points in a losing effort. Milwaukee is now 34-31 and stand tied with the Miami Head for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

NBA Championship Favorites?

For the Rockets, the winning streak has added validity to the idea that they should at least be considered co-favorites alongside the Warriors to win the NBA Championship this year.

Oddsmakers haven’t quite jumped on that bandwagon, but the Rockets have become a clear second choice. At Ladbrokes, Houston is a 4/1 pick to win the title, though Golden State (8/13) remains a favorite against the field to repeat as champions. The Cleveland Cavaliers (15/2), Boston Celtics (12/1) and Toronto Raptors (12/1) are considered the top contenders in the Eastern Conference.

The Rockets will face a serious threat to their winning streak on Friday, when they travel to Toronto to take on the Raptors (47-17). A road game against another elite team is never an easy game, and D’Antoni says that he knows that this could easily be where his team’s memorable stretch will come to an end.

“I think it every day,” he said in regards to when the winning streak could come to a close. “That’s a coach’s life. I’m scared to death of Friday already.”