ATLANTA (AP) — James Harden’s big first quarter gave Houston a lead that seemed safe.
His misses helped give Atlanta a chance.
Harden scored 41 points, including 22 in the first quarter, to lead the Houston Rockets over Trae Young and the Hawks 122-115 on Wednesday night.
Harden had 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his second straight triple-double. He made only nine of 34 shots, including four of 20 three-pointers.
Young kept pace. The Hawks’ second-year point guard had 42 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He and Harden are the first players to post 40-point triple-doubles in the same game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Harden faded in the second half, when he made only two of 18 shots.
“I think, obviously, we had a couple guys run out of gas,” said Houston coach Mike D’Antoni. “Our legs got tired obviously. We just had to hang on.”
D’Antoni said Harden “just didn’t shoot the ball well. So be it.”
Harden had 44 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for his first triple-double of the season in a 118-108 win over Philadelphia last Friday night. The Hawks pulled within three late in the fourth quarter, the last time at 118-115 on two free throws by Alex Len. Harden sank four free throws in the final 10.4 seconds.
“They made shots,” Harden said. “We missed shots. They’re a feisty team.”
Clint Capela had 22 points and 22 rebounds, and Ben McLemore had 18 points in Houston’s third straight win.
Harden more than made up for the absence of Russell Westbrook, his usual backcourt partner. D’Antoni had a confident answer when asked before the game about the impact of Westbrook being rested.
“Just more James,” D’Antoni said.
It was a safe prediction.
Harden, who scored 60 points in his last game against Atlanta in November, set out on another high-scoring pace. The NBA’s leader at 38.4 points per game, Harden abused the Hawks with his mix of three-pointers and drives. Atlanta’s frequent best answer was to foul him, and he made 19 of 23 free throws.
Houston led 45-29 after the first quarter and pushed the lead to 20 in the second period.