HOUSTON — James Harden strolled into the Toyota Heart sporting a fluorescent inexperienced Grinch-colored swimsuit and gifted MacBooks and Beats by Dre headphones to teammates earlier than stealing away Oklahoma Metropolis’s vacation pleasure Tuesday by main the Houston Rockets to a 113-109 victory.

On the best way, Harden dropped 41 factors, and in scoring 30 factors or extra in a career-high seventh straight recreation he turned the primary participant to do this since Russell Westbrook recorded eight consecutive 30-point video games in November 2016. It was additionally the second-most in a Christmas recreation amongst lively gamers.

“We have loads of guys taking part in at a excessive degree proper now,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni mentioned. “So many guys contributed tonight. James, like I mentioned, is up to one other degree that I do not know possibly he is been there earlier than. It is onerous to inform as soon as he will get to that altitude, however he is taking part in nice.”

  • James Harden scored 41 factors and the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder 113-109 on Tuesday for his or her seventh win within the final eight video games.

  • A missed journey within the ultimate minute Monday evening led to James Harden getting three free throws in a one-possession recreation — and an eventual Houston win — however the Rockets celebrity wasn’t about to “inform on” himself.

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Clint Capela pulled down 23 boards to break Enes Kanter’s report for rebounds in a Christmas Day recreation (22).

“Clint has gone up a degree I feel from final yr,” D’Antoni mentioned. “We’re a extra full crew, and we will deal with adversity with Chris [Paul] being out and James Ennis being out as a result of now we have now extra of a slate of gamers — however we strive not to get too forward of ourselves — taking part in higher.”

Nonetheless, the report that mattered most to Houston on the finish of this one was its 18-15 mark, as the Rockets at the moment are three video games over .500 for the primary time all season with a gantlet of upcoming opponents in critical competition for postseason berths, together with a number of the NBA’s greatest within the Golden State Warriors, Portland Path Blazers, Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks.

“[Our] report is not the place we would like it to be, but it surely’s getting there,” Harden mentioned. “We’re making ready for a postseason. We’re not going to be at our tip-top proper now, which is a superb factor, so we have one thing to construct to. We have had that confidence all yr although, man.”

That actually confirmed towards a Thunder squad that led by as a lot as 11 factors in a recreation that featured 15 lead modifications and 12 ties.

After dominating the paint in Houston’s victory Saturday over the San Antonio Spurs, Capela duplicated the feat towards Oklahoma Metropolis, gobbling up 14 rebounds within the first half alone. Capela turned the primary Rocket to report consecutive 20-rebound video games since Charles Barkley did it in November 1996.

Oklahoma Metropolis got here into the competition ranked No. 1 within the NBA in offensive rebounding, making strong defensive rebounding a precedence for the Rockets.

“Each time we play them, we discuss rebounding, get it out of a defensive rebound,” Capela mentioned. “So I knew that tonight, I had to make a press release. I simply informed them I had to make a press release that tonight, we’re going to win that rebound battle. I really feel it was actually a avenue combat, and I had to get each rebound.”

Houston outrebounded Oklahoma Metropolis 54-52, however outpaced the guests in second-chance factors 23-9.

As for Harden, the veteran has now put collectively two consecutive video games with a minimum of 34 subject purpose makes an attempt, turning into the primary participant to do this since Kobe Bryant racked up 34 or extra in 2007 over a stretch of three consecutive video games.

Harden hoisted 35 photographs to get to his 41 factors, and though he did not shoot it effectively, the guard slipped to the basket virtually at will. Harden related on 6 of 18 pull-ups for 17 factors however racked up 18 on drives, the place he knocked down eight of 13. Harden missed his solely catch-and-shoot alternative. Harden additionally handed Kevin Durant for second amongst lively gamers by producing his 56th profession 40-point recreation.

Harden actually put within the work for it.

In accordance to information from Second Spectrum, Harden recorded 736 dribbles within the win over Oklahoma Metropolis, which ranks as his second-most in a recreation this season. Harden put 868 dribbles on the ground Nov. 26 towards the Wizards, and scored 54 factors in that recreation.

Harden has put collectively 5 video games this season with a minimum of 600 dribbles, whereas the remainder of the NBA mixed has produced 4 such video games.

“That is been James’ recreation,” Thunder ahead Paul George mentioned. “His potential to simply assault from outdoors and set himself up for open alternatives, that is been James’ recreation.”

With out Paul within the lineup, Houston was winless till Saturday’s victory over San Antonio, and it has now captured two in a row with out the veteran. Paul is anticipated to miss a minimum of two weeks with a Grade 2 pressure of his left hamstring.

With Paul out, the matchup towards the Thunder marked the Rockets debut of Austin Rivers, who signed with the crew Christmas Eve. Rivers performed 31 minutes and scored 10 factors, hitting two huge 3s down the stretch. Rivers additionally offered strong protection towards Westbrook, who completed with 21 factors on 6-of-20 taking pictures.

D’Antoni referred to as Rivers “a tricky man” who “offers us some grit.”

Rivers, in the meantime, was simply “grateful for the chance” and relieved he not has to guard Harden, who dressed alone on the opposite aspect of the locker room listening to Tupac hits “Image Me Rollin'” and “Modifications,” adopted by “Temptations.”

“No extra step-backs, now I simply get to smile,” Rivers mentioned. “He did a pair [step-backs] tonight, man. I used to be similar to, ‘Goodness gracious.’ He is the very best offensive participant within the NBA with the ball in his fingers. There’s no person like him.”

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