HOUSTON — James Harden’s first bucket of the sport gave his Houston Rockets teammates a sense that this is able to be a spectacular efficiency for the reigning MVP.

After a few jab steps, Harden blew by Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball, sliced down the lane and threw down a vicious, lefty tomahawk dunk over heart JaVale McGee. Harden, who often performs it cool by pretending to have a nosebleed after dunks, flexed with each arms and snarled.

“I used to be like, ‘Wow!'” Rockets heart Clint Capela mentioned. “I’ve by no means seen James like that, particularly flexing after a dunk. Is new James in entrance of me or what? I’ve by no means seen him like that in 5 years. That was one thing — and it despatched a message to everyone.”

This was a recreation the Rockets, off to a disappointing begin on the heels of final season’s journey to the Western Convention finals, desperately felt they wanted to win. And Harden refused to let Houston lose, ending with 50 factors, 10 rebounds and 11 assists within the 126-111 victory Thursday night time, making historical past by recording the fourth 50-point triple-double of his profession.

  • Harden possesses a deep bag of tips, all designed to drive defenders loopy and get the reigning MVP to the road at an historic clip.

“That is loopy. That is sick,” Rockets guard Chris Paul mentioned. “I ain’t by no means had a teammate that is able to doing that.”

Harden is one in every of solely six gamers in NBA historical past to rating 50 in a triple-double. This triple-double broke a tie with Oklahoma Metropolis’s Russell Westbrook for probably the most such performances in NBA historical past. Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor had two every, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Richie Guerin every hit the uncommon statistical milestone as soon as.

The Rockets set a number of screens to make sure that Harden had an opportunity to get to 50 on a floater within the ultimate minute. The Rockets improved to 13-14 with the win.

“We’re in a gap proper now, and we have got to discover a method to get out of this gap, and we’ll,” mentioned Harden, who recorded the 37th triple-double and 11th 50-point efficiency of his profession. “Me and Chris are the leaders. We have now to go on the market and play effectively and put ourselves in place each single night time. That is what we’ve got on the road.”

One of many Rockets’ issues this season has been fizzling down the stretch of shut video games. That difficulty reared its ugly head over the weekend in Dallas, when Mavericks rookie star Luka Doncic went on a private 11-Zero run in crunch time to steal a win. Harden missed a pair of Three-pointers throughout that stretch, air-balling the second, an indication of fatigue.

Harden requested coach Mike D’Antoni for a bit of extra relaxation than he recurrently will get within the fourth quarter Thursday night time. He received a breather with 9:27 remaining and sat till the Four:57 mark.

“This is likely one of the first occasions ever that he mentioned, ‘Give me a few minutes,'” D’Antoni mentioned. “That is nice. I can sort of inform, however we’d like him recent on the finish, and if he can regulate himself a bit of bit like that it could assist.”

It paid off towards the Lakers, as a refreshed Harden dominated down the stretch, scoring all of Houston’s factors throughout a 15-5 run to shut the sport.

Harden’s flurry began when he made all three free throws after Josh Hart fouled him on a Three-pointer with Four:04 remaining. Harden hit a step-back shot from 30 toes on the Rockets’ subsequent possession. He swished one other step-back from just a few toes deeper on their subsequent journey down the courtroom, a shot that was basically a dagger with Three:12 remaining, stretching the Rockets’ lead to a dozen factors.

“As soon as I got here again in, I used to be prepared to go,” mentioned Harden, who admitted that fatigue had been an element for him late in some current losses. “You play 46 minutes and 45 minutes, it is troublesome for anyone on this league. The blokes are so proficient and nice, in order that little interval that I had to relaxation, I got here again in re-energized and prepared to make large performs.”

Harden was 14-of-26 from the ground, Four-of-12 from Three-point vary and 18-of-19 from the free throw line. His variety of free throw makes an attempt was particularly alarming to the Lakers.

“You may’t put him on the road,” mentioned Lakers star LeBron James, who had 29 factors. “We put him on the road 20 occasions. He is already proficient as s— offensively. Can put the ball within the gap a number of methods — drive, step-back 3s. However you give him simple factors, once you put a man like that on the road, you possibly can’t put [Kevin Durant] on the road for 20 free throws. You may’t put him on the road for 20 free throws. You may’t put any of our scorers that we’ve got in our league on the road 20 occasions as a result of they simply see the ball go within the gap.”

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