Harden’s career-high 56 lead Rockets past Jazz, 137-110
HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden had just scored a career-high 56 points when he was asked if he knew he had fallen one point shy of the Houston Rockets’ record.
Harden shrugged and replied, “We won, right?”
And they did it with Harden only playing 35 minutes in a 137-110 victory over the Utah Jazz on Sunday night that ran their Western Conference-best record to 8-3.
Harden fell just shy of Calvin Murphy’s 57 points against New Jersey in 1978, but he joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to have 10 assists and shoot better than 75 percent from the field in a 50-point performance.
Harden had 13 assists and shot a sizzling 76 percent from the floor, hitting 19 of 25 shots after missing his last three attempts. The MVP runner-up was a perfect 7 for 7 from beyond the arc until he missed a step-back 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter as the shot clock was about to expire.
Even when the Jazz could deny Harden his shot, he dished it off for someone else to score. Eric Gordon scored 20 points, Trevor Ariza had 14 and Nene scored 13 off the bench.
“That was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen,” Gordon said. “He was picking them apart and not just with scoring. What else can you do?”
Ariza had the answer to that: nothing.
“I don’t think there’s any defense for him, period,” Ariza said. “When he’s on, what can you do? Two people can’t guard him when he’s on like that.”
Harden received a standing ovation from the Toyota Center crowd, which rained down “MVP! MVP!” chants at multiple points during the game. He had 22 points in both the first and third quarters, 30 at halftime and sat for the final 7:32 of the blowout.
Harden said he was unaware he was 8 for 8 in the first quarter and made his first 10 shots to start the game.
“I mean, I was just shooting, I don’t really know,” Harden said. “I don’t pay too much attention to it.”
Donovan Mitchell led Utah with 17 points in 25 minutes off the bench. Rudy Gobert had 13 points but was held to a season-low five rebounds in 25 minutes.
The Rockets have won three straight, while the Jazz have lost back-to-back games following a three-game winning streak.
Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder called Harden one of the smartest players in the league.
“We’re disappointed, obviously, in our group and our performance, particularly defensively,” Snyder said. “There wasn’t enough resilience, and there wasn’t enough toughness. There wasn’t a collective resolve that you need against a team that’s that talented and against a player that’s having the kind of night he was having.”
Houston scored at least 119 points for a third straight game. Last season, the Rockets were 43-5 when scoring 110 points or more and 12-22 when failing to do so. Houston’s 23 3-pointers fell two shy of Cleveland’s NBA record, set last season.
“I’m just going to hazard a guess when we shoot 59 (percent) from 3s, we’re probably not going to lose too many games,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said with a grin. “That’s just a wild guess.”
Jazz: Gobert received a technical foul late in the first half for shouting at an official following a dunk. ... The Jazz shot 43.7 percent from the field, including 38.2 percent from 3-point range.
Rockets: Clint Capela had eight points, eight rebounds and four blocks, including two on Gobert. ... Houston made 59.3 percent of its shots, including 59 percent from beyond the 3-point line on 23-of-39 shooting.
GREETING THE CHAMPS
Between the first and second quarter, the Rockets recognized the Houston Astros for their World Series win over Los Angeles, the first in franchise history. At midcourt, manager A.J. Hinch, outfielder Jake Marisnick and pitchers Lance McCullers, Mike Fiers and Dallas Keuchel held the World Series trophy to a loud ovation. Earlier in the day, several Astros players brought the trophy to the Texans’ game against the Colts.
As part of the Rockets’ new First Shot promotion featuring a local celebrity shooting a free throw before tipoff for charity, Olympic gold medalist gymnast Simone Biles became the first participant to miss her attempt. A made shot secures a $5,000 donation from the Rockets, while a miss equals $1,000. The 4-foot-9 gymnast from nearby Spring, Texas clanked her shot off the backboard to the right of the rim.
MOMENT OF SILENCE
Prior to the singing of the national anthem, the Rockets observed a moment of silence for the victims of Sunday morning’s mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, near San Antonio.
Jazz: Host the 76ers on Tuesday night.
Rockets: Host the Cavaliers on Thursday night.
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