HOUSTON (AP) — While Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni and James Harden’s teammates raved about his latest big game on Monday night, the Beard was busy critiquing himself and pointing out ways he could have played better.
“I did a poor job of just not controlling the basketball, basically giving them transition points by turnovers,” he said. “I have to take care of the ball more, but just continue to be aggressive and make plays for my team.”
Harden had 43 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists in his fourth straight 40-point game, leading the Rockets over the Memphis Grizzlies 113-101 for their fifth consecutive victory.
While Harden was unhappy with his nine turnovers, D’Antoni was effusive in his praise for the superstar, who has carried the team with fellow All-Star Chris Paul out with a hamstring injury.
“I don’t know how you get any better than what he’s playing,” D’Antoni said. “Defensively, too. He comes up with steals, triple-doubles like it’s nothing. So yeah, he’s playing at a different level.”
Harden set an NBA record with his eighth straight game with at least 35 points and five assists, besting Oscar Robertson, who twice had seven-game streaks. Harden finished with his fourth triple-double this season and 39th overall.
Houston has won 10 of its last 11 to improve to 21-15.
Harden continued his incredible run that has powered Houston’s surge up the Western Conference standings after a slow start, making six three-pointers and 21 of 27 free throws. He has made at least four three-pointers in eight straight games has finished with 30 points or more in 10 games in a row.
The Rockets, who spent the early part of the season in the basement of the conference standings, are tied with the Clippers for fourth place in the West.
“It’s a good feeling, it could be better though,” Harden said. “We’re trying to get that number one spot so we’ve got to continue to build.”
The Grizzlies cut the lead to nine with about 90 seconds left. But P.J. Tucker made a free throw for Houston before Austin Rivers added a layup to make it 113-101 and seal the victory with about 35 seconds left.
Harden grabbed his 10th rebound seconds after that to complete his triple-double.
Kyle Anderson had 20 points and Mike Conley added 19 for the Grizzlies, who lost for the seventh time in nine games.
Houston was up by 13 to start the fourth and back-to-back baskets by Clint Capela made it 93-77 with about nine minutes left. Harden made four straight free throws for the Rockets later in the fourth to leave them up 98-83.
But the Grizzlies scored four quick points, with the last basket coming when Anderson stole the ball from Harden, to cut it to 98-87 with five minutes to go.
Green answered with a three-pointer and Houston stretched the lead to 103-87 with about four minutes left.
The Rockets led by double digits for most of the night and were up by 23 after two free throws by Harden midway through the third quarter. Memphis closed out the third with a 14-3 run to get within 86-73 entering the fourth. Marc Gasol led the way in that stretch, scoring five points.
The Rockets led 61-38 at halftime behind 28 points from Harden. He capped his huge first half by making two 3s in the last 31 seconds of the half, capped by one that was well behind the line with Anderson in his face.
“James has been playing at a high level,” Memphis coach J B Bickerstaff said. “Some of the shots that he made in the first half, they are indefensible. I thought our guys showed a lot of character by the way they responded in the second half. They put a lot more pressure on him and forced him into some turnovers.”