Harden continues historic streak

HOUSTON — After scoring a season-high 57 points in Houston’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night, James Harden was asked how he was able to put Sunday’s loss to Orlando, when he went 1 for 17 from 3-point range, behind him so quickly.

“I went 1 for 17? That’s a lot of 3s missed,” he deadpanned. “Oh wow!”

Then the reigning MVP, who scored 38 points against the Magic despite that terrible statistic, got serious when asked if it’s easy to forget about such a night.

“Yeah, because if I make six of them it’s on,” he said. “It’s a 60-point game. So Orlando got lucky last night.”

Harden extended his streak of 30-point games to 17 by halftime, pouring in a franchise-record 36 points in the first half to send Houston on its way to a 112-94 victory. It’s the longest such streak since Wilt Chamberlain had 20 straight games of at least 30 points in 1964.

It’s the franchise-record 14th time Harden has scored 40 this season and the eighth time in his last 11 games. It’s the third time he’s topped 50 points this season and the 12th time in his career. He surpassed his previous season best of 54 against Washington and fell just shy of the career-high and club-record 60 points he scored last January against Orlando.

Houston teammate Austin Rivers, who joined the Rockets just three weeks ago, marveled at Harden’s ability to not let Sunday’s struggles spill over into Monday’s performance.

“He comes off a game where he was 1 for 17 and everybody’s saying whatever and it just doesn’t even faze him. He just comes in tonight like he was 17 for 17,” Rivers said. “That’s just the mindset that the great ones have. I’m telling you right now, if another player went 1 for 17 they would have come in tonight a little … messed up. James comes in and that’s just why he is who he is and it’s impressive.”

After his huge first half, the Grizzlies double-teamed Harden on most every possession in the first few minutes of the third quarter and he didn’t score again until there were about five minutes left in the period. That basket was the start of an 11-0 run capped by a 3-pointer from Harden that pushed the Rockets’ lead to 76-60 with about 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the third.

A 3-pointer by JaMychal Green got the Grizzlies within 12 later in the third before Harden scored five quick points to make it 87-70.

Garrett Temple and Mike Conley scored 14 each for the Grizzlies, who lost for the eighth time in nine games.

Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who worked for the Rockets from 2011-16, said his team tried to keep the ball out of Harden’s hands, but Houston does such a good job of putting him in different spots on the floor that it’s difficult to do effectively.

“There’s so much space, so you have to give them credit and give him credit just for the talent he is and the impact he has on the game,” Bickerstaff said.

Harden’s latest big game came on a night when the Rockets were without three starters, as center Clint Capela joined Chris Paul and Eric Gordon on the injured list after he hurt his right thumb Sunday night.

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