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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
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Harden's 60 points in 31 minutes leads Rockets in 158-111 rout of Hawks
Posted: November 30, 2019 -- 11:57 p.m. CT
HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- James Harden was sensational Saturday night in the Houston Rockets' 158-111 blasting of the Atlanta Hawks. Harden scored 60 points in 30 minutes and 41 seconds.
SIXTY POINTS IN THIRTY MINUTES AND 41 SECONDS.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, he is the third player over the past 25 seasons to have scored 60 or more points through three quarters of play, joining Klay Thompson (vs. IND on December 5, 2016) and Kobe Bryant (vs. DAL on December 20, 2005).
"My man had 60 and didn't play the fourth quarter," Austin Rivers said after the game. "Name another player that can do that right now?"
Harden didn't want to talk about scoring 60.
"Nope," Harden said when he was asked, after the game, if he could talk about scoring 60. "Nope."
Harden added, "I was just being aggressive and a couple minutes of the game they let me play one on one, then they started to trap. So, I just read what the defense was giving me and we try to attack it as best as possible."
The Rockets (13-6) raced to a 38-21 lead after the first quarter; then, they outscored the Hawks 43-31 in the second quarter to lead 81-62 at halftime. The 81 points is the third time Houston has scored 80 or more points in a first half (90 at Phoenix on November 16, 2017 and 87 vs. Denver on November 6, 1990). The Rockets are 26-3 when scoring 70 or more first half points under head coach Mike D'Antoni (dating back to 2016-17).
Harden scored 31 points in the first half. Then, he erupted for 29 points in the third quarter. In the third period, Harden made 6 of 10 field goal attempts (3 for 6 three-pointers) and 14 of 16 free throw attempts.
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The Hawks (4-16) tried numerous defenses against Harden. None of them worked.
"We try to do what we have to do against James, which is throw a lot of bodies at him," Lloyd Pierce, Hawks Head Coach remarked after the game. "Try to put him under duress. He just didn't feel us. 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 out at him. A lot of their guys got confidence, obviously he made a ton of shots. He got to the foul line. Kind of who James is, and it was amplified tonight."
Ben McLemore made his fifth start of the season. McLemore started for Danuel House Jr who missed the game due to an illness. McLemore scored a season-high 24 points along with a career-high 13 rebounds, marking the second double-double of his career.
"Like everything else he does, it's unbelievable," Rockets Head Coach Mike D'Antoni said of Harden's 60 point performance. "I think even in the first half, when they (Atlanta Hawks) doubled – he gave it the right play. Then, when they didn't double – he scored. He had something like – his first 40 points, he had like 40-something points on 15 shots or 12 shots, or whatever it was. I mean, you get 60 points on 24 shots, that's pretty good; and, I think that's what he had. He was incredible; but, he's like that every night."
The Rockets next game is at the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, December 3, at 7:30 p.m.
Harden has scored 60 or more points four times in his career, tying him with Michael Jordan for the third-most in NBA history. Tonight also marked the 20th time Harden has scored 50 or more, which is the fourth-most in league history and eight more than any active player. No active player has scored 60 or more points more than once in their career.
The Rockets hit 25 3-pointers on 49.0% shooting and had 10 more threes made than the Hawks. In NBA history, a team has hit 25 or more 3-pointers in a game six times, five by Houston dating back to last season. The Rockets are 3-0 when having 10 or more threes made than their opponent this season after going 17-3 when doing so in 2018-19.
The 158 points are the second-most Atlanta has allowed in its franchise history (168 in four overtimes to Chicago on March 1, 2019). Houston is the first team to have scored 150 or more points multiple times in a single season since Golden State in 1991-92.
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