SportsPulse: Trsyta Krick takes a stand on a number of topics and scenarios dominating the headlines as we push through the back end of the NBA season.
James Harden will have to settle for the second-longest streak of 30-point games in NBA history.
Harden’s historic run of consecutive games with at least 30 points came to an end Monday in the Houston Rockets’ 119-111 win over the Atlanta Hawks. The reigning MVP came up just short, finishing with 28 points on another tough shooting night.
Harden, who missed Saturday’s game with a neck injury and said it was still bothering him Monday morning, shot 7-of-21 overall and missed all 10 of his 3-point attempts. He went 14-of-16 on free throws and added five rebounds and four assists.
Atlanta seemed determined in the fourth quarter to be the team to finally end Harden’s run. The Hawks threw constant pressure at Harden, forcing him to pass out of double-teams and inducing tough, contested shots.
Harden entered the fourth with 17 points and the Rockets ahead 95-85. He started the quarter on the bench but came back in at the 9:20 mark. He lingered on 17 for a few minutes before scoring six straight Houston points.
After missing a pair of 3s, Harden was fouled on another 3-point attempt with 1:43 left. He made all three free throws to put the Rockets up 115-107 and get to 26 points. A driving lay-up with about 23 seconds left gave him 28 and sealed the Rockets win.
Harden had one final chance to reach 30 points in the closing moments.
After a final Hawks bucket, Harden received the inbound pass with about seven seconds left. He hesitated a moment, then pushed the ball up the court and stopped near the sideline about 35 feet from the hoop. Atlanta opted not to foul, but four defenders converged on Harden, who then waited out the final seconds.
Harden’s streak ends as the longest since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77 and the second-longest in league history. His run trails only Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time record of 65 consecutive 30-point games during the center’s legendary 1961-62 season in which he averaged an astonishing 50.4 points per game.
Harden averaged 41.1 points per game during his streak and raised his season scoring average to 36.5 per game. In the last 40 years, Michael Jordan is the only player to average more over a season, with 37.1 in 1986-87.
The last game Harden didn’t hit the 30-point mark was a Dec. 11 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in which he scored 29. The streak began two nights later with a 50-point triple-double against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Harden scored at least 40 points 18 times during the streak and hit 50 on four occasions. With 57 and 58 points in consecutive games Jan. 14 and 16, Harden joined Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to score at least 55 in back-to-back games. The highlight of the streak came a week later when Harden poured in a career-high 61 against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.