LOS ANGELES (AFP) - James Harden made the winning free throw with two seconds left, capping a 59-point performance as the Houston Rockets outgunned the Washington Wizards 159-158 in one of the highest scoring games in NBA history.
Harden shot 18-of-32 from the field, made all but one of his 18 free throws, and drained six three pointers as the Rockets overcame a 46-point night from Bradley Beal.
“I work hard every single day. I fall in love with it, mastering the game,” Harden said. “You can’t expect to be great if you don’t put the work in.
“You might be doing everything right and things don’t always work out your way. You got to keep pushing.”
The teams combined to score 317 points, the most ever in an NBA game which was decided by a single point. It was just the third game in the past 25 years in which each team scored at least 150 points.
The previous record for combined points in a game decided by just a single point was 311 between the Chicago Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers in 1984.
Russell Westbrook overcame a slow start to finish with his second triple double of the season with 17 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Clint Capela tallied 21 for the Rockets, who improved to 3-1 on the season.
‘Whatever it takes’
Beal tied the contest 158-158 with eight seconds remaining by making his free throws, but the Wizards couldn’t tack on any more and dropped to 1-3 on the season.
“I didn’t know we were going to have to score about 160 points to win, but whatever it takes it took,” Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Rui Hachimura, the highest drafted Japanese-born player in NBA history, scored 23 points and Davis Bertans had 21.
Japan’s ambassador to the United States, Shinsuke Sugiyama, attended the game to watch Hachimura, who was selected ninth overall by the Wizards in the 2019 entry draft.
This season marks a reunion of sorts for Westbrook and Harden. They spent three seasons together with Oklahoma City until Harden left in 2012 to join the Rockets.
Elsewhere, Joel Embiid scored 19 points before being ejected because of a third quarter fight as the Philadelphia 76ers won their fourth straight game to start the season by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 117-95.
Embiid was sent to the showers along with Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns after the two got into a tussle that also included players and some coaches on Wednesday.
“I was built for this city,” said Embiid, adding he didn’t throw any punches so he felt he shouldn’t be suspended.
No one was injured but tempers boiled over in the melee that ignited under the basket with the Sixers leading 75-55 halfway through the third.
“You gotta come in here, you gotta fight, you gotta play hard, you gotta be gritty, you gotta be a Broad Street Bully,” he added in a reference to Philadelphia’s rough and tumble championship NHL team from the 1970s.
After they exchanged words, the two big men wrestled each other to the ground as teammates and coaches, including 76ers head coach Brett Brown, charged into the fray to try and separate the combatants. At one point Sixers Ben Simmons put a choke hold on Towns, who ended up at the bottom of the pile.
Embiid and Towns were ejected. Embiid walked over to the sidelines and jokingly shadowboxed in front of the Sixers bench before being escorted to the locker room.
Towns declined to talk about the dust-up after the game.
“It was a competitive game. That’s all it was,” Towns said.
Embiid and Towns have a history of talking trash on the court and through social media and that continued after the contest.
Embiid tweeted later that Towns’ mother gave him a one-finger salute as he was being escorted out of the arena and into the tunnel under the seats.
‘Raised around lions’
“Great team win!!! I was raised around lions and a cat pulled on me tonight .... I got his mom giving me middle fingers. That’s some SERIOUS REAL ESTATE,” Embiid wrote on Twitter.
The victory leaves the 76ers as one of two unbeaten NBA teams along with the 3-0 San Antonio Spurs. The Timberwolves suffered their first loss falling to 3-1.
Andrew Wiggins scored 19 points and Towns finished with 13 points for the Timberwolves.
Also, Kemba Walker delivered his second straight 32 point performance as the new-look Boston Celtics rallied from a huge first half deficit to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 116-105.
Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors crumbling dynasty was dealt another jackhammer blow on Wednesday when superstar Stephen Curry suffered a broken hand against the Phoenix Suns.
Curry sustained the injury with 8:31 left in the third quarter as he drove to the rim and collided with Suns Aron Baynes in a one-sided 121-110 loss to Phoenix.
“Stephen Curry has a broken hand,” the Warrior public relations department confirmed in a tweet.
Baynes ended up landing awkwardly on top of Curry, who stayed on the ground for a few moments holding his wrist and then got up and tried to shake off the pain.
He attempted to stay in the game before the Warriors called a timeout and Curry walked over to the bench and left for the locker room with the Suns dominating on the scoreboard.
The loss of Curry for an extended period now leaves the Warriors as a shadow of their recent championship teams.
A mix of superstars, supporting cast, coaching and championship experience had made the Warriors the strong pre-season favorites for the past several seasons.
Even before Curry got hurt, Golden State was already without departed Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, who is injured and likely out for the entire season.
Their bid for a third straight championship and fourth in five years was dashed last season when they lost in the NBA finals in six games to the Toronto Raptors.
On Wednesday, Phoenix led 43-14 at the end of the first quarter and 72-46 at halftime.
Curry finished with nine points and six assists in 21 minutes of playing time.