SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Once James Harden figures out the best way to take over a game, there isn’t much other NBA teams can do to stop him.
Harden attacked on both ends of the court and quickly filled up the stat sheet to power the Houston Rockets to a 125-98 victory over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.
Harden had 43 points for his 26th straight game with at least 30 points. The 30-point streak is the third-longest in NBA history, trailing only Wilt Chamberlain’s runs of 65 and 31 games.
“It was a must win for us and we came out here and played like it,” the reigning NBA MVP said. “Defensively, we got after it. Offensively, we moved the basketball. Everybody played well. That’s the effort it’s going to take for us on every single night.”
Harden also had 12 rebounds, six steals, five assists and four blocks. He was 12 of 22 from the field, making 4 of 12 3-pointers, and made all 15 of his free throws.
“He’s so locked in,” teammate Gerald Green said. “He puts the work in. He’s leading us in the right direction. Our job is to let him lead and follow him in this. He’ll take us where we need to go.”
Green added 25 points, and Kenneth Faried had 16 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 5:07 remaining. Houston snapped a two-game losing streak, holding the Jazz to 36 per cent shooting and forcing 23 turnovers.
“The biggest thing is we turned that ball over way too much,” Utah guard Donovan Mitchell said. “That’s what really hurt us.”
Mitchell had 26 points and nine assists for Utah. Rudy Gobert added 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Harden fuelled the bulk of a 17-4 run that put Houston up 60-48 with 30.1 seconds left in the first half, making three baskets and four free throws. He punctuated it by scoring on three consecutive possessions.
“It never feels like he’s selfish,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “It just feels like he’s making the right play all the time and a lot of times the right play is him shooting the ball. He’s playing at a level that is rare.”
Harden missed his first career five-by-five by a single block.
“If I was any taller I could have gotten another block,” Harden said. “Honestly, I was trying to be active and create some opportunities with our defence.