James Harden's incredible scoring streak may come to an end when Chris Paul returns, but the reigning MVP is ready to welcome the Houston Rockets point guard back with open arms.

The injury-ravaged Rockets beat the Toronto Raptors 121-119 on Friday as Harden scored 35 points, continuing his incredible run of having contributed at least 30 points in 22 successive games.

All but five of those tallies have been achieved without Paul, the nine-time All-Star having been out since before Christmas due to a hamstring injury.

The 33-year-old is set to make his comeback against the Orlando Magic on Sunday and Harden believes Paul can be a major asset.

Asked what he will bring to the team, Harden told reporters: "Leadership and just play-making ability.

"[On] defense, being able to create defensive steals to our offense.

"I'm just happy to see him back on the court. He spent so long working out and trying to get his body healthy and right as well."

The presence of Paul should ease the burden on Harden, who insists he is happy for his numbers to decrease if it benefits the team.

"It's great, I'm here for whatever," Harden said of his role when Paul returns.

"Whatever I have to do. Guys go out, some guys got to step up, some guys got to step up more than usual.

"When guys are healthy, roles are gonna dim down a little bit but that's fine. As long as we're playing well as a team and we're clicking, we're good."

LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo will serve as captains for their respective Western Conference and Eastern Conference in the upcoming NBA All-Star game.

The NBA named the starters on Thursday, and there were no surprises as Los Angeles Lakers superstar James topped the voting in the west ahead of the February 17 All-Star clash in Charlotte.

Joining James as starters selected from the Western Conference are Golden State Warriors pair Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, Houston Rockets star and reigning MVP James Harden.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George won a tie-breaker over the New Orleans Pelicans' Anthony Davis.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo was the leading vote-getter in the Eastern Conference, which includes the Toronto Raptors' Kawhi Leonard, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving and Charlotte Hornets star Kemba Walker.

The starters were voted in by averaging votes cast by fans, players and a media panel.

James and Antetokounmpo will choose their respective teams from the eight remaining starters, and then a total of 14 additional reserves (seven from each conference, as selected by NBA head coaches) will then be chosen.

James Harden was in the form of his life as his career-high 61 points edged the Houston Rockets past the New York Knicks in the NBA on Wednesday.

James Harden said he was happy to give New York Knicks fans 61 points as the Houston Rockets star revelled in his memorable performance.

Harden became the first NBA player to score 55 points or more three times in a calendar month since Wilt Chamberlain in 1963 in Houston's 114-110 win over the Knicks on Wednesday.

The reigning MVP has now scored at least 30 in 21 straight games.

Speaking after the game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Harden told reporters: "This is one of the historical buildings in the sport that we have.

"Obviously, the fans are one of the best that we have in this league. And so it's pretty cool to come out here and put on a show for them."

Harden, who also had 15 rebounds and was 22 of 25 from the free-throw line, matched Kobe Bryant's 2009 mark for a visiting player at Madison Square Garden.

There was a mix of boos and cheers throughout the historic performance in New York, and Harden added: "They couldn't figure out what they wanted to do. I appreciate them, honestly.

"They kept me going and made the game exciting for me ... That's why this place is special. I'm just happy to give them 61."

Houston Rockets star James Harden cannot stop scoring, delivering a 61-point performance on Wednesday.

The reigning MVP dropped 61 points in the Rockets' 114-110 win over the New York Knicks, giving him three 55-point games in the last calendar month.

He is the first player to accomplish that feat since Wilt Chamberlain in 1963.

"I just feel like every time the ball leaves his hand it's got a chance to go in," Knicks coach David Fizdale told reporters after the game. "That's greatness. He's a great player."

In addition to the 61 points, Harden has scored at least 30 in 21 straight games. He has 13 40-point games in that stretch and four 50-point games.

He also had 15 rebounds, which made him the first player since Shaquille O'Neal in 2000 to tally 60 points and 15 rebounds in a game, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

He went 22 of 25 from the free-throw line and five of 20 from three-point range, making him the first player ever to put up 20 attempts from beyond the arc and the penalty stripe in a single game.

And also, the 61 points is tied for the most ever scored by a visiting player at Madison Square Garden.

James Harden was disappointed to see Carmelo Anthony's short stint in Houston come to an end.

The Rockets announced Anthony's departure on Tuesday.

"Melo is one of the best to ever hoop. He loves the game of basketball," Harden told reporters on Tuesday, via ESPN.

"Some guys just do it just because they're gifted or they're athletic or they can shoot the basketball. There's not that many players that like, love to hoop ... It kind of sucks that it didn't work out. It is what it is. I just hope he finds somewhere where they can embrace him and he can still hoop. So he [gets to] make that decision that he's done [playing]."

The 10-time All-Star, as well as the rights to Jon Diebler and cash considerations, were sent the Chicago Bulls in exchange for the rights to Tadija Dragicevic.

However, Anthony is not expected to play a game with Chicago, multiple reports stated.

He has been linked to the Los Angeles Lakers, but has also fielded multiple offers recently.

"I just want to see him hoop, see him happy, and I mean, he deserves it, honestly," Harden said. "Like, he's put so much time and effort into this game that he should be able to hoop and still have fun playing the game of basketball."

Anthony, 34, averaged 13.4 points in 29 minutes per game for the Rockets. He shot 40.5 per cent from the field and 32.8 per cent from three-point range.

The Houston Rockets' 138-134 overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers was the only thing that mattered to James Harden as the reigning MVP poured in another 48 points on Saturday.

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton has one very important goal against the Houston Rockets, keep MVP contender James Harden under 50 points.

Reigning NBA MVP Harden has scored 57 and 58 points in his last two games at the Toyota Center.

Harden is averaging an NBA-best 35.4 points and has scored 30-plus in 18 consecutive contests.

The Rockets have gone 13-5 during that stretch while Harden has engineered three 50-point games and eight 40-point games.

Los Angeles are hoping to extend their two-game winning streak when they face the Rockets on Saturday and Walton singled out the threat of Harden.

"If we can keep him anything under 50, we feel like we've succeeded as a group," Walton said jokingly. "If he scores over 50, then the game plan did not work."

Walton added: "He's going to get fouls, he's going to get three-point shots, he's going to score.

"He's on an unbelievable tear right now. We just got to keep fighting and playing through all of it."

Los Angeles (25-21) are looking for their first three-game winning streak of the new year.

The last time the Lakers had a three-plus game win streak was the end of November.

They will continue to play without superstar LeBron James (groin) for the foreseeable future.

The timetable for his return is unclear and according to a recent interview with James' agent, he will not rush his comeback.

His 2017-18 campaign may have been impressive, but reigning MVP James Harden is having a career year in 2018-19.

The Houston guard has been in incredible form for the 25-19 Rockets, scoring 30-plus points in an NBA-record 18 successive games and putting up a staggering 115 points in his last two appearances alone.

Harden led the league in scoring, three-pointers and 50-point games in a Houston team that won more regular-season matches than anyone in 2017-18, but the individual contribution of 'The Beard' has been even greater this term.

Here, we look at the numbers behind the man seemingly on course to win back-to-back MVP awards.

 

A plethora of points

Last season, through 41 matches, Harden was averaging 30.9 points per appearance. At the same point in this campaign, his average is up to 35.4.

No one had as many 50-point games as Harden's four last year, and he has already reached that haul this term thanks to his recent displays against the Memphis Grizzlies and Brooklyn Nets.

The 29-year-old has also scored at least 40 points on 15 occasions, compared to 11 at the equivalent stage in 2017-18.

 

Assists, rebounds and efficiency

With six triple-doubles, Harden already has more than he did throughout his entire MVP campaign (four), with an average of 6.3 rebounds per fixture this time around compared to 4.9 boards last season.

And while he is undoubtedly the focal point of the Houston offense, Harden is in the league's top five for assists, though his average is down from 9.0 to 8.5 per game.

His field-goal percentage has dropped marginally from 44.3 to 43.8 and he is proving slightly less effective beyond the arc - 38.7 per cent in 2017-18 to 37.5 per cent in 2018-19.

 

The Chris Paul effect

Harden's statistical explosion has happened when the Rockets have been without Chris Paul, who picked up a hamstring injury prior to Christmas.

In the last 13 contests without Paul, Harden has poured in a whopping 43.2 points per game, compared to 31.8 prior to his team-mate's injury, and he has failed to score fewer than 40 only four times.

Harden has averaged 16.9 shots from beyond the arc - sinking 6.2 per game - having averaged only 11.1 attempts before Paul went down.

Houston Rockets star James Harden did something that has not been done in the NBA since 1962.

James Harden is on an impressive tear and he broke one of Kobe Bryant's NBA records on Monday.

Harden topped Bryant's record for most consecutive games with at least 30 points when he tallied 57 in a 112-94 win for the Rockets over the Memphis Grizzlies.

This marked Harden's 17th straight game with at least 30 points. 

He also scored a Rockets record 36 points in the first half of the victory.

The Rockets have won eight of their last 10 games. Despite being without Clint Capela, Chris Paul and Eric Gordon, Harden thrived, recording his third 50-point game of the season.

The reigning MVP has established himself as a contender to take the award home again this year with his stellar offensive performances.

Harden leads the league in scoring, averaging 34.8 points while also tallying 6.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game.

Houston improved to 25-18 and sit in fourth place in the Western Conference. The Rockets will face the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.

The Houston Rockets cannot rely on James Harden being "superhuman every night", said Mike D'Antoni after the reigning MVP tied an NBA record for the most missed three-pointers in a game.

Although Harden tied Kobe Bryant for the most successive 30-point matches (16) by scoring 38 in a 116-109 loss to the Orlando Magic, he shot just one-for-17 from beyond the arc to match Damon Stoudamire's unwanted mark.

Rockets head coach D'Antoni was disappointed by Houston's defensive display and called on other players to step up when the six-time All-Star is having a difficult time.

"The problem is you can't rely on [Harden] to be superhuman every night. We have to have some contribution from other guys," said D'Antoni.

"I thought they came in with a lack of focus, especially on the defensive end and it carried over on the offensive end. We didn't play well.

"I just thought the whole game we didn't have the right focus for a team that plays well. Steve Clifford has them [Orlando] playing really well.

"We got 10 points, 10 points, 10 points up and let them hang around and we didn't have the right amount of focus and you get beat. Hopefully we'll learn from it."

Harden was keen not to dwell on his shooting struggles, insisting that defense was the greater issue for the Rockets.

He said: "[The threes] just didn't go in. It's not even about offense though, defensively we weren't locked in enough and we gave up 70 points or something [actually 64] in the second half. We scored enough points to win.

"We didn't have our [defensive] focus level like the last few weeks.

"We don't have the margin of error. We've got to come in locked in from the beginning of the game for all four quarters. You give a team like this some confidence and open shots, and they made them. It's pretty simple."

Houston Rockets star James Harden tied multiple NBA records on Sunday.

The 29-year-old tallied 38 points in the Rockets' 116-109 loss to the Magic in Orlando.

It was Harden's 16th game scoring 30 or more points, which tied former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant's record set during 2002-03.

Harden, however, missed 16 of his 17 three-pointers in the loss. He tied Damon Stoudamire for the most missed three-pointers in a single game. It was also the worst three-point field-goal percentage in a single game in NBA history, with a minimum of 15 attempts.

"The problem is you can't rely on [Harden] to be superhuman every night,'' Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said, via ESPN. "We have to have some contribution from other guys. I thought they came in with a lack of focus on the defensive end, and it carried over on the offensive end. We didn't play well."

Harden, the defending MVP, has been one of the best players in the NBA this season. He entered Sunday's matchup averaging 34.1 points, 8.7 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game in 2018-19.

Harden is also shooting 43.8 per cent from the field and 39 per cent from three-point range.

The loss to the Magic dropped Houston to 24-18 this season. They will host the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.

Kawhi Leonard led the way as the Toronto Raptors outlasted the Washington Wizards 140-138 after double overtime in the NBA.

Leonard posted 41 points and 11 rebounds on Sunday to guide the Raptors in a marathon shoot-out, while Pascal Siakam had an impressive 24 points and 19 rebounds.

On the other side, Bradley Beal recorded 43 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists in Washington's losing effort. 

Bradley became just the second player in NBA history to record multiple 40-10-15 games in one season. Oscar Robertson also accomplished the feat in 1961-62. 

Beal's performance, however, was not enough as the Wizards dropped to 18-26. Meanwhile, Eastern Conference leaders the Raptors improved to 33-12.

 

Harden ties Bryant's record

James Harden had 38 points and 12 rebounds in the Houston Rockets' 116-109 loss to the Magic. Harden extended his 30-point game streak to 16 games, tying Kobe Bryant's all-time record.

Stephen Curry hit 11 shots from behind the arc in a 48-point performance as the Golden State Warriors topped the Dallas Mavericks 119-114.

Nikola Jokic notched 40 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Denver Nuggets past the Portland Trail Blazers 116-113.

 

Lin struggles as Hawks fall

Jeremy Lin scored seven points on two-of-10 shooting as the Atlanta Hawks fell short to the Milwaukee Bucks 133-114.

Josh Hart scored nine points for the Los Angeles Lakers on three-of-12 shooting in a 102-95 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

Doncic dazzles, Simmons sizzles

Luka Doncic sliced through the defense with a cut to the basket and finished strong at the rim.

Ben Simmons converted this lob with flair as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the New York Knicks 108-105 on the road.

 

Sunday's results

Toronto Raptors 140-138 Washington Wizards (OT)
Philadelphia 76ers 108-105 New York Knicks
Milwaukee Bucks 133-114 Atlanta Hawks
Orlando Magic 116-109 Houston Rockets
Golden State Warriors 119-114 Dallas Mavericks
Denver Nuggets 116-113 Portland Trail Blazers
Cleveland Cavaliers 101-95 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Trail Blazers at Kings

Portland's exceptional guard play has helped lift the team to fourth in the Western Conference, while the Sacramento Kings' young team are hovering just outside of the playoff picture, sitting in 10th place. This matchup should be an exciting offensive showcase.

James Harden set his sights on the Houston Rockets earning the number one seed in the Western Conference after his sensational season continued with another NBA record.

In 29 minutes and 34 seconds on court in Friday's home match with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Harden became the first player in NBA history to score a 40-point triple double in fewer than 30 minutes.

Harden had 43 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in a performance that included eight three-pointers, as the rampant Rockets routed the Cavs 141-113 with their MVP candidate able to watch from the bench for the whole fourth quarter after another amazing feat.

The Rockets were 14th in the West at the start of last month, but have won 13 of 16 games to move to 24-17, just 4.5 games back from the first-placed Denver Nuggets. Their 141 points scored was a season-high.

"It feels great and I think we've all had that in the back of our mind," Harden said of the number one seed, which the Rockets attained last season en route to the Western Conference Finals.

"It was just a far reach earlier in the season. Now it's pretty close. We've just got to continue to do what we've been doing. Playing well, taking care of opportunities like this. Just continue to get better, strive to get better.

"I think we're a few games out of the loss column, so just keep going. The West is tough, every single night, so it feels good to have games like this. We did a great job from top to bottom. 

"My shot was falling, I was getting to the basket and taking what the defense gives me."

It was Harden's fourth 40-point triple-double of the season - the rest of the NBA combined only has one (recorded by the Washington Wizards' Bradley Beal). 

He also has at least five three-pointers in 12 straight games, a record comfortably topping the previous longest streak of seven (Stephen Curry), while his run of scoring 30 or more points now sits at 15 games.

Asked if he can appreciate the historical scale of his recent accomplishments, Harden said: "Nope. I don't have time to sit back and relax. I've got to keep pushing, keep going."

Harden, who was labelled "an incredible player" by coach Mike D'Antoni, owed thanks to team-mate P.J. Tucker, who made way and boxed out Ante Zizic to allow him to claim his 10th rebound and place in the history books with 82 seconds left in the third quarter.

"Dinner, movies. I need a date!" Tucker joked.

But a laughing Harden replied: "I took P.J. to dinner, movies, Europe. I take P.J. everywhere with me. He gets enough already!"

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