HOUSTON (Texas) • No Chris Paul. No Eric Gordon. No Clint Capela. No problem. As long as the Houston Rockets have James Harden.
In a mind-boggling performance, Harden and his supporting cast managed to rout the Memphis Grizzlies 112-94 in their National Basketball Association (NBA) home game on Monday night, with Harden scoring 57 points in 34 minutes.
It was the 17th game in a row in which Harden scored at least 30 points, a feat bettered by only Elgin Baylor (18 games, 1961-62) and Wilt Chamberlain (four streaks of at least 20 games, including 65 straight games from November 1961 to February 1962).
It was his third game of 50 or more points this season. No other player has more than one.
"No pressure," the NBA's reigning Most Valuable Player said. "I do this for a living. I have fun with it. The win was important. I've got to get some rest and be ready to go Wednesday. Same thing."
While the scoring burst was hardly unexpected for Harden, averaging an NBA-leading 34.8 points a game, the Rockets' personnel situation made it stand out.
Paul has been out with a hamstring problem since Dec 20 and Gordon has been out with an injured knee since Dec 29.
Houston's injury report then took on what seemed like a crippling blow earlier on Monday when it was revealed that centre Capela, the most frequent recipient of Harden's assists, would be out for four to six weeks with ligament damage in his right thumb.
That list of injuries left Harden starting alongside the less productive quartet of P.J. Tucker (five points), Nene (two), Austin Rivers (11) and Danuel House Jr (15).
No matter, as Harden joined Charlotte's Kemba Walker as the only players to score more than half their team's points in a game this season.
He was hot from the start, setting a Rockets record with 36 points in the first half, and he succeeded all game with his typical combination of three-pointers (six for 15) and free throws (17 for 18).
He also led all players in the game with nine rebounds and committed just five turnovers despite his outrageous level of ball usage.
The last time he scored fewer than 30 points was in the Dec 11 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, when he had 29.
Since then he has averaged 43.9 points over the 17 games in which the Rockets (25-18), who had a poor start this season, have gone 13-4.
In the 17 games, Harden has topped 50 points twice and 40 points 10 times. He has also recorded five triple-doubles.
"It's beyond impressive," said Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni, who himself notched his 600th career win. "It's rare that people can do what he's doing."
Garrett Temple and Mike Conley scored 14 each for the Grizzlies (19-24), who have dropped eight of their past nine games.
NYTIMES, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE