HOUSTON (Texas) • James Harden, with his seventh 40-point game of the season, led Houston to their seventh win in eight games and believes the Rockets are slowly regaining the form that made them the best regular-season team last term.
The point guard, who finished with a game-high 41 points plus six rebounds and seven assists, recorded his seventh consecutive 30-plus-point game on Tuesday, as the Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-109.
It was also the first time a player has achieved that feat in the National Basketball Association since the Thunder's Russell Westbrook had eight consecutive 30-point games in November 2016.
Houston dropped to 11-14 after a three-game skid earlier this month. Since then, Harden's performances have boosted the Rockets, who went 65-17 last term, and they have lost just once to improve to 18-15.
"We've had that confidence all year," Harden insisted after the game at the Toyota Centre.
"Our record isn't where we want it to be, but it's getting there. And we've got to continue to work hard every day, continue to get better and grow. We're preparing for a post-season. We're not going to be at our tip-top right now."
Clint Capela added 16 points and 23 rebounds while Eric Gordon had 17 points, to back up Harden in the absence of the injured Chris Paul.
Paul George paced the Thunder (21-12) with 28 points and 14 rebounds while Westbrook chipped in 21 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Their team have now lost twice after a four-game winning streak.
In Boston, Kyrie Irving also scored 40 points, including two three-pointers in the final two minutes of overtime, and the Boston Celtics overcame a five-point deficit in the extra session to defeat the visiting Philadelphia 76ers 121-114.
Irving, who added 10 rebounds, sent the game into overtime by sinking a difficult jumper with 20.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The guard's performance helped overcome 34 points and 16 rebounds by Philadelphia's Joel Embiid.
Jayson Tatum added 23 points and 10 rebounds for Boston. Marcus Morris also scored 23.
Jimmy Butler added 24 points for Philadelphia, J.J. Redick had 17 points, and Ben Simmons contributed 11 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. Redick also missed a shot that would have won the game at the end of regulation.