LOS ANGELES (AFP) – NBA scoring juggernaut James Harden poured in a season-high 57 points on Monday (Jan 14) to power the short-handed Houston Rockets to a 112-94 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
His latest monster game highlighted a night of National Basketball Association action that saw Hornets point guard Tony Parker receive a hero’s welcome in San Antonio – the city where he starred for 17 seasons.
Parker had a modest eight points, four assists and three rebounds in 19 minutes on the court in Charlotte’s 108-93 win – all with Spurs fans cheering him on.
“Man, a lot of love,” said Parker, who won four NBA titles with San Antonio. “I’ve been with those fans for a long time and I really appreciate (this).
“It’s hard to describe the feeling I have right now.”
Harden departed the court in Houston to a rousing ovation as well, and it owed nothing to nostalgia.
With the Rockets reeling from the news that centre Clint Capela will likely miss at least four weeks with a thumb injury – joining an injury list that already included Chris Paul and Eric Gordon – Harden happily shouldered the burden.
“No pressure,” Harden said. “I do this for a living. I have fun with it.”
He extended his streak of consecutive 30-point games to a remarkable 17 – and he did it by half-time with 36 points before the break.
It is the longest such streak since Wilt Chamberlain had 20 straight games of 30 or more points in 1964, surpassing Lakers great Kobe Bryant’s 16-game 30-point streak in the 2002-03 season.
It was the 11th 50-point game for an NBA player this season – three of those belonging to Harden.
His latest huge game came a day after he scored 38 points in their loss to the Orlando Magic, despite connecting on a dismal one of 17 three-point attempts.
“I knew he was dog-tired,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I knew he was trying to orchestrate it early and try to save his legs a little bit.”
But he admitted that he could only marvel at Harden’s determination.
“The guys guarding him are really good defenders,” said D’Antoni, who notched his 600th career win as a coach.
“It’s beyond impressive,” he said. “It’s rare that people can do what he’s doing.”
The third quarter opened with the Grizzlies throwing double- and triple-teams at Harden, whose scoring pace slowed.
His teammates stepped it up, however, and the Rockets took an 87-70 lead into the final quarter.
Harden got a breather early in the fourth, but re-entered the contest when Memphis closed within 13 points with 7:11 left to play.
With 4:43 remaining Harden was fouled as he drained a three-pointer, making the free throw to complete the four-point play as Houston pulled away.
Russell lifts Nets
In New York, D’Angelo Russell scored 18 of his 34 points in the third quarter as the Brooklyn Nets used a second-half surge to beat the Boston Celtics 109-102.
The Nets out-scored the Celtics 44-21 in the third period and pushed their lead to as many as 27 points in the fourth.
Boston whittled the gap to seven points with 1:28 remaining, but the Nets held on to end a 10-game skid against the Celtics.
Centre Jarrett Allen scored 19 points with 12 rebounds and forward Rodions Kurucs added another 19 points for the Nets, who improved to 22-23 – good enough for seventh in the Eastern Conference.
Sacramento guard Buddy Hield scored 19 points to lead six Kings players in double-figures in a 117-105 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.
De’Aaron Fox added 16 points to help the Kings win their third straight.
Damian Lillard led Portland with 35 points, reaching the 12,000-point milestone for his career.
In Los Angeles, New Orleans forward Anthony Davis scored 46 points and pulled down 16 rebounds to pace the Pelicans in a 121-117 victory over the Clippers.