James Harden believes his performances merit him being named MVP again, declaring "it's coming back" after he continued his hot streak against the Boston Celtics on Thursday.

The Houston Rockets guard had 45 points in his team's 127-113 victory, meaning he has now scored 30 or more in eight successive games and at least 35 in his last six.

Harden's form has helped propel the Rockets to eight wins in their last nine outings, lifting last season's losing finalists in the Western Conference up the standings after a shaky start to the season.

Having been named MVP for the 2017-18 campaign, the 29-year-old also feels he is "in that conversation" when it comes to discussing candidates for this year's award.

"Of course I should be in that conversation," he told the media.

"I mean, I receive a lot of hate, but it won't stop me from going out there and killing every single night, being that dog that I am.

"You can name a few other people that should be in the conversation. But realistically? It's coming back."

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry was the last player to be named MVP in successive seasons, securing the honour in 2015 and 2016.

Harden registered 17 points in the opening quarter against the Celtics and hit nine of his 18 three-point attempts. He also recorded six assists in the home victory.

His red-hot form has helped improve the Rockets to a 19-15 record and head coach Mike D'Antoni praised the six-time All-Star.

"He has a mastery of the game and a control and an ease of which he plays," D'Antoni said. "It's fun to watch."

The Sacramento Kings reigned supreme with a 117-116 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers thanks to Bogdan Bogdanovic's buzzer-beater.

In the Lakers' first game without LeBron James – who is sidelined with a groin injury – Bogdanovic stepped up for the Kings and drilled a three-pointer as time expired to seal Thursday's NBA win.

Bogdanovic came off the bench to lead all Kings players with 23 points.

Kyle Kuzma tried to fill James' shoes, logging 33 points with four assists and nine rebounds, while Lonzo Ball was just short of a triple-double following 20 points,12 assists and nine rebounds. 

 

Harden lifts Rockets

James Harden is the reigning league MVP, and he is making his case for a second campaign. The NBA star scored 45 points, marking the sixth game in a row he has scored 35 points or more as the Houston Rockets topped the Boston Celtics 127-113. Harden also made nine three-pointers, which tied his career-high.

Ben Simmons posted his fifth triple-double of the season in the Philadelphia 76ers' 114-97 victory at the Utah Jazz. The Australian finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists.

 

Thompson headlines Warriors' woes

Klay Thompson's slump continued as the Golden State Warriors fell to the Trail Portland Blazers 110-109 in overtime. Thompson scored just 15 points off six of 19 field goal attempts, went two-for-nine beyond the arc and went one-for-four in free throws.

 

Age just a number for Korver

Jazz veteran Kyle Korver may be 37, but he can still shoot threes like he did in his younger years. Korver sank this beauty right before the shot clock ran out at the end of the first quarter.

 

Thursday's results

Houston Rockets 127-113 Boston Celtics
Milwaukee Bucks 112-96 New York Knicks
Sacramento Kings 117-116 Los Angeles Lakers
Portland Trail Blazers 110-109 Golden State Warriors (OT)
Philadelphia 76ers 114-97 Utah Jazz

 

Nuggets at Spurs

The Denver Nuggets will travel to the San Antonio Spurs for the two team's first matchup of the season. The surging Spurs have won seven of their last 10 games, while the Nuggets are half a game behind the Warriors in the Western Conference. Denver will be looking to shake off a tough loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, which saw Nikola Jokic ejected, while the Spurs will try to bounce back from a loss against the Rockets. It will be a clash between two Western Conference teams that look poised for the postseason.

Mike D'Antoni feels James Harden has reached a level not seen before after the reigning MVP led the Houston Rockets to a Christmas Day win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden's 41 points ensured the Rockets won 113-109 at home to give the Thunder (21-12) a second consecutive narrow defeat, in what was one of the NBA's five marquee festive fixtures.

The 29-year-old has now scored at least 30 points in seven straight matches, the first player to do so since Russell Westbrook recorded a run of eight in November 2016.

Despite Harden's past achievements in the game, Rockets coach D'Antoni does not think he has seen him perform with such quality.

"We've got a lot of guys playing at a high level right now," he told reporters. "So many guys contributed. We try not to get too ahead of ourselves, but [we are] playing better.

"James, like I said, is up to another level that I don't know maybe he's been there before. It's hard to tell once he gets to that altitude, but he's playing great."

"Clint Capela has gone up a level I think from last year," D'Antoni added of the in-form center who had 23 rebounds, setting a new record for Christmas Day fixtures.

"We are a more complete team, and we can handle adversity with Chris [Paul] being out and James Ennis being out because now we have more of a slate of players."

And Rockets debutant Austin Rivers was relieved he no longer has to guard Harden.

"No more step-backs, now I just get to smile," he said after a 10-point appearance off the bench.

"He did a couple, man, I was just like, 'Goodness gracious'. He's the best offensive player in the NBA with the ball in his hands. There's nobody like him."

After a miserable start to the season, the Rockets have now won seven of eight, improving their record to 18-15.

Harden said: "[Our] record isn't where we want it to be, but it's getting there.

"We're preparing for a postseason. We're not going to be at our tip-top right now, which is a great thing, so we've got something to build to. We've had that confidence all year."

Westbrook narrowly missed a triple-double with 21 points, nine assists and nine rebounds, while Paul George had 28 points and 14 rebounds.

"We had some bad bounces which got them a couple of extra possessions which got them some open 3s," reflected George.

James Harden says the Houston Rockets will simply have to "figure it out" after Chris Paul injured his left hamstring in Thursday's loss to the Miami Heat.

Experienced point guard Paul was hurt during the second quarter of the 101-99 loss, which snapped a five-match winning streak.

After the game, head coach Mike D'Antoni said "it'll be some time" when asked about Paul's expected absence and the 33-year-old is set to have a scan back in Houston on Friday.

Paul noticeably missed Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors last season with a similar problem to his right hamstring, but reigning NBA MVP Harden says the Rockets must find a way to cope.

"We've got to figure it out," he told reporters. "Injuries happen."

Rockets guard Eric Gordon accepted Paul will be a big loss to the team, not least for his playmaking abilities.

"It's definitely tough because he's a big-time playmaker and ball handler for us," he said. 

"In this offense you need all of the playmaking that you can have and usually me, Chris, and James have the ball in our hands trying to play-make for other people and provide good scoring.

"It's definitely going to be tough. But we've just got to make adjustments and play even better."

The defeat left the Rockets on a 16-15 record and eighth in the West, with the team having lost just 17 in the whole of the previous regular season.

James Harden described the Houston Rockets' record-breaking three-point performance against the Washington Wizards as "pretty cool". 

The Rockets drained 26 efforts from beyond the arc in Wednesday's 136-118 rout at the Toyota Center, with Michael Carter-Williams nailing the landmark effort with 31.1 seconds left in the game. 

With the record in sight, the home-court crowd chanted "three" while the Rockets' starters, who were now on the bench, were also urging their team-mates to take the opportunities to shoot threes. 

Speaking about the history-making evening, Harden said: "It's pretty cool to be part of it. 

"You're in the history books." 

Chris Paul cast aside his recent shooting difficulties with five of nine three-point efforts made, contributing 21 points and eight assists to his side's cause. 

"Man, it was fun," Paul said. "It wasn't no disrespect at all to Washington or whatnot.  

"It's one of those things you don't get to do very often. To do it with the team, unless it gets broken tomorrow, it's something that we'll remember." 

On making the shot that broke the record, Carter-Williams said: "We knew that if we didn't at least attempt it, we would have heard it in the locker room."

Chris Paul was left wide-eyed after James Harden delivered a masterclass to help the Houston Rockets beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.

James Harden insists he is "not concerned at all" about the Houston Rockets despite another dismal quarter in defeat to the Utah Jazz on Thursday.

The Rockets were outscored 17-9 by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the fourth quarter en route to a road loss on Monday and a 12-minute spell again cost Houston in Salt Lake City, going down 38-11 in the third as the Jazz coasted to a big 118-91 win.

Yet star man Harden says there is little to be overly worried by, saying "it happens in basketball", although he is keen for the Rockets to improve.

"I'm not concerned at all," Harden told reporters. "What would I be concerned about? It happens. It happens in basketball.

"We've got to watch the film and figure out how to get better, whether that's winning the turnovers or defensively being better. We don't know yet. I'm pretty sure it's a variety of things, though."

Asked for his analysis of the decisive third quarter, he added: "[The Jazz] got off to a really good third quarter. We didn't make shots, they made shots. We had a couple of mistakes on defense and they capitalised on them."

Houston slipped to 11-13 against Utah, but Harden is not interested in drawing comparisons to the Rockets team that finished the 2017-18 regular season as top seeds.

"We can't do anything about last year. We've got to just focus on this year, each game and each day getting better," he said. "Honestly, we've got a completely different roster.

"We focus on what we've got to improve every game. Things aren't always going to great, but sometimes things are going to go great. We've just got to stay the pace, stay the course until the end."

James Harden’s big game wasn’t enough to lead the Houston Rockets to a win over the Washington Wizards on Monday.

James Harden believes the sky is the limit for the Houston Rockets once they get a full roster back and available.

Carmelo Anthony thinks some of the Houston Rockets' problems will be fixed once they get back in the win column.

The Rockets dropped their fourth straight game and fell to 1-5 this season when they were topped 104-85 by the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday. 

James Harden has been ruled out of the Houston Rockets' next two games against the Los Angeles Clippers and the Portland Trail Blazers due to a hamstring injury.  

Houston Rockets star James Harden is confident the hamstring problem that forced him out of the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz will not keep him sidelined for long.

James Harden is dealing with hamstring tightness and will be re-evaluated on Thursday, according to Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni.

LeBron James made his home debut at Staples Center but it did not go according to plan after the Los Angeles Lakers lost a feisty game against the Houston Rockets. 

New Orleans Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis believes he is the best player in the NBA, ahead of the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant. 

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