NBA: James Harden puts up 44 points as Rockets top Suns

James Harden scored 22 points before half-time and was the only member of the Rockets to reach double figures prior to the intermission.
James Harden scored 22 points before half-time and was the only member of the Rockets to reach double figures prior to the intermission. PHOTO: AFP

PHOENIX (REUTERS) - James Harden extended his streak of consecutive 30-point games to 27 as the Houston Rockets defeated the host Phoenix Suns 118-110 on Monday (Feb 4).

He finished with 44 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. His 30-plus-point scoring streak is now the third longest in National Basketball Association history, two behind by Wilt Chamberlain.

The Houston star shot 15 of 26 from the floor and nine of 11 from the free-throw line to help send the reeling Suns to their season-worst 11th consecutive setback.

Harden scored 22 points before half-time and was the only member of the Rockets to reach double figures prior to the intermission.

The Rockets fashioned a more balanced scoring attack in the second half, as Kenneth Faried wound up with a double-double (17 points, 14 rebounds) while James Ennis III (13 points) and Chris Paul (18 points, five steals) also chipped in.

For Harden, it was his 20th 40-point game on the season.

The Rockets never trailed, with Phoenix last forging a tie at 38-all on a Jamal Crawford three-pointer at the 8min 56sec mark of the second quarter. Houston extended to a double-digit lead at 57-46 on an Austin Rivers three-pointer just over five minutes later, and the visitors withstood a number of spirited Suns challenges.

Phoenix second-year forward Josh Jackson was the linchpin behind several of those runs. His three-pointer during a burst early in the third quarter helped the Suns slice the deficit to 65-60, only for the Rockets to respond with a 21-8 rally, with Harden scoring eight during that stretch.

Jackson scored 25 points while Kelly Oubre Jr added 23 off the bench for the Suns. Rookie centre Deandre Ayton paired 15 points with 11 boards, and Devin Booker had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Suns, who shot 53.6 per cent from the floor overall but missed 18 of 25 three3-point attempts.

Harden picked up two fouls early in the first quarter but remained in the game. He started three of three from the floor and posted 12 points in the period to pass former Rockets forward Otis Thorpe (17,600) for 82nd place on the career scoring list. Harden later passed Rolando Blackman (17,623) for 81st place.

In New York, Giannis Antetokounmpo totalled 30 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists as the Milwaukee Bucks concluded a five-game road trip with a 113-94 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

Antetokounmpo, who entered the game leading the league in points in the paint at 17.2 per contest, constantly attacked the rim and finished with a combined nine dunks and lay-ups. He shot 12 of 19 from the field as Milwaukee finished the trip with four straight victories and won for the 10th time in 11 games. Each of those 10 victories was by nine points or more.

In Washington, Taurean Prince scored 21 points, Kevin Huerter had 19, and the visiting Atlanta Hawks defeated the Wizards 137-129. Overall, nine Atlanta players scored in double figures, including all five starters. Prince made seven of 10 shots from the field, including five of seven three-point attempts.

In Detroit, Andre Drummond piled up 27 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and three blocks in 26 minutes and the Pistons snapped the Denver Nuggets' six-game winning streak with a 129-103 victory.

In New Orleans, Darren Collison scored 22 points to lead a balance scoring attack as the visiting Indiana Pacers held off the Pelicans 109-107.