LOS ANGELES, (AFP) - James Harden scored 35 points on Friday as the Houston Rockets used a balanced attack and held on to beat the Toronto Raptors 121-119.
The red-hot Harden had been averaging more than 50 points over his last five games and has now scored 30 plus points in 22 straight contests.
“I am just trying to do whatever it takes to win,” said Harden. “If I got to score a lot of points, or what ever team my needs me to do, I am going to do.”
The host Rockets led by 11 points with 74 seconds to go but the Raptors cut that margin to just two, 121-119, with 27 seconds left.
On the final play of the game, Raptors Kawhi Leonard decided to go for the three pointer and a win instead of a two-point basket which would have tied it. He shot an air ball with Harden guarding him.
“I was just trying to contest it. It was kind of sloppy, but we won and that is all that matters,” Harden said.
Harden’s stretch of 30-point games is the fourth-longest in NBA history, behind three streaks by Wilt Chamberlain of 65, 31, and 25 games. Harden was 15 of 15 on free throws, and just two of 13 from beyond the arc.
Harden was coming off a career-high 61-point performance at Madison Square Garden but this time he got plenty of scoring help against the Raptors.
Guard Gerald Green said it’s odd to see a team even partially shut down Harden.
“I wish I could have a quiet 35 points. It is kind of weird to not see him score 45 and 50, cause I am so use to seeing him score 50,” Green said.
Harden credited the Raptors’ defense with cooling off his torrid scoring binge.
“Some teams allow me to score points, some teams are going to take those points away from me and I have got to facilitate. We had a great team effort,” he said of the Rockets’ starters who all scored 10 points or more.
Eric Gordon led with 24, Kenneth Faried had 21 and 14 rebounds, P.J. Tucker added 18 and Austin Rivers scored 13.
Leonard scored 32 points for the Raptors, who lost their second straight game.
Elsewhere, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points and 14 rebounds and the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks came from behind to beat Charlotte 108-99.
The Bucks seized control of the contest by outscoring the Hornets 32-12 in the fourth quarter.
Malcolm Brogdon added 19 points, Eric Bledsoe had 18, and Khris Middleton 15 to help the Bucks improve to 35-12 with their sixth straight victory.
Nicolas Batum led the Hornets with 19 points, Jeremy Lamb and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist each had 16.
Milwaukee battled back with an 11-0 run in the fourth to get back in the game. They grabbed the lead on Brogdon’s driving basket with 5:34 left.
Charlotte star Kemba Walker was injured late in the fourth when he fell and Antetokounmpo landed on him. Walker headed directly to the dressing room.
Also, Lou Williams recorded his first career triple double with 31 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Chicago Bulls 106-101.
Lavine scored 29 points and Bobby Portis added 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulls, who have lost 12 of their last 13 games.