Former MVP was two points shy of career-high
It was one of those nights where you can throw the entire kitchen sink at James Harden, and not a single thing worked.
The former MVP was unstoppable, scoring 33 of his 60 points in the first half en route to a dominant 158-111 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
“Like everything else he does, it’s unbelievable,” said Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni.
The Rockets shot a blistering 65 percent from the field in the first half with four Rockets in double-figures with Harden leading the way.
The Rockets were active defensively, holding the Hawks to 44 percent shooting.
“We were hitting everything we threw up, it wasn’t fair to them because they were tired,” D’Antoni said. “And you could see it, when you don’t have legs, it’s tough.”
The hot shooting continued in the third for Harden. He started the quarter off by connecting on three 3-pointers, while getting fouled on two three-point attempts and hitting all six free throws in the first four minutes.
Harden finished with 27 in the quarter.
“That felt like the same, as every other game,” Harden said.
Harden then added, “Overall mindset of being aggressive didn’t change at all.”
Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce tried to throw “a lot of bodies at” Harden, but was not successful.
“He just didn’t feel us,” Pierce said. “He didn’t feel us with the doubles. He didn’t feel us with the blitz. He didn’t feel us with the extra defender running at him.
“It’s kinda who James is, and it was amplified tonight,” Pierce added.
Harden’s 60-point performance marks the 20th time he’s had a 50-point game and the fourth time he’s scored at least 60. He was two points shy of tying his career high.
Ben McLemore finished the game with 24 points and 13 rebounds, while Russell Westbrook added 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Rockets.
McLemore, who started in place of Danuel House, notched his first career double-double. Harden feels that McLemore is in the perfect position to succeed.
“I think his energy, and his spirit that he brings every game, is something that’s been huge for us,” Harden said.
Overall, the Rockets finished the game shooting 58 percent from the field, hitting 25 3-pointers on 49 percent shooting.
After coming off a career high-tying 49 points, the Hawks’ Trae Young finished with 37 points and seven assists for Atlanta. Rookie De’Andre Hunter also added 14 points for the Hawks, who shot a dismal 43 percent overall from the field.
With the loss, Atlanta’s losing streak hits 10, with a home game against Golden State coming up on Monday.
“It just wasn’t our night,” Pierce said.
After not having to travel the last week, the Rockets head on the road to face the San Antonio Spurs and the Toronto Raptors. Thankfully, the extra rest helped.
“(The rest was) good for us,” Harden said. “Obviously, we got some rest, and we’re ready to go for a two-game road trip against two really good teams.”