(REUTERS, AFP) - James Harden and Chris Paul combined for 48 points, and the hosts Houston Rockets withstood a career night from Atlanta Hawks rookie guard Trae Young for a 119-111 win on Monday (Feb 25) in the National Basketball Association.
Harden had his streak of consecutive 30-point games end at 32, posting 28 points despite finishing 0-for-10 from three-point range.
The Rockets star had an opportunity to pursue an extension of the streak, the second-longest in league history behind Wilt Chamberlain's 65-game run in 1961-62, but he dribbled out the clock with the win secure.
In another game, Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton scored 22 points apiece, and the Milwaukee Bucks cruised to a 117-106 road win over the Chicago Bulls to boosted their record to an NBA-best 46-14.
Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic added 13 points apiece for the Bucks, who won their fifth game in a row. They played without played without All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who sat out because of soreness in his right knee.
Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez each had 26 points in a losing effort for the Bulls (16-45). Chicago's three-game win streak came to an end as the Bucks completed a four-game sweep in the regular-season series.
Harden had sat out the Rockets' previous game, a Saturday road win over the Golden State Warriors, owing to a neck injury.
He was fined US$25,000 (S$33,740) on Saturday for criticising the referees after a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and has missed just four games this season.
Paul added 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds and carried the Rockets to a 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter, with a show of force down the stretch of the third.
Four other Rockets scored in double figures, with Eric Gordon scoring 16 off the bench after being replaced in the starting lineup by Kenneth Faried (13 points, 10 rebounds, two blocked shots).
Harden said he had no false ideas about catching Chamberlain. "It was cool but I knew I was not going to get to No. 1," he said.
Coach Mike D'Antoni said: "Eventually it was going to have to end one of these days."
Young paired 36 points on 8-of-12 shooting from three-point range with eight assists. The Hawks shot 17 of 38 from deep, with three others joining Young by making multiple treys. Forward John Collins chipped in 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Hawks.
Despite shooting the lights out in the first quarter, the Rockets (35-25) never seized complete control of the contest.
Houston finished 6 of 11 from deep in the opening frame, but the Hawks shot 6 of 10 on treys. And despite Harden and Paul combining for 16 points and the Rockets converting 61.9 per cent of their overall shot attempts, their 11-point lead entering the second quarter felt tenuous.
Young was the reason. Atlanta (20-41) trailed by as many as 12 points in the second before he sparked a comeback with 12 points in the period. His three-pointer pulled the Hawks even at 56-56 with 3:29 left in the half, and he added two free throws at the 2:03 mark for a two-point lead.