James Harden believes Giannis Antetokounmpo is "up there" in the race to be crowned MVP, but the Greek forward said "I don't know if I'm there yet" after he inspired the Milwaukee Bucks to a 116-109 victory over the Houston Rockets.

Antetokounmpo scored 27 points, claimed a career-high 21 rebounds and provided five assists at Toyota Center on Wednesday.

Harden extended his NBA-record streak of recording at least 30 points and five assists to 14 games, pouring in a game-high 42 points in the defeat to the Bucks. 

The Rockets guard could win back-to-back MVPs if he maintains those standards, but says Antetokounmpo has every chance of claiming the honour.

"He's up there," Harden said. "He's definitely [elite], just the way he impacts the game."

The Milwaukee Bucks managed to overcome a big performance from James Harden to top the Houston Rockets 116-109 in the NBA. 

James Harden admits he is learning to find ways to deliver despite being double-teamed on "nearly every possession" after he poured in another 32 points in the Houston Rockets' latest win.

James Harden and the Houston Rockets' hot shooting carried the team to a 125-113 victory over Western Conference rivals the Denver Nuggets on Monday.

Houston (23-16) were riding a six-game winning streak until they lost to the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday, but the Rockets picked up where they left off against one of the best teams in the NBA's west.

Harden put on his typical impressive performance, totalling 32 points and 14 assists to see off the Nuggets.

Clint Capela almost topped Harden, scoring 31 points and grabbing nine rebounds for Houston.

Ultimately, the Rockets' three-point shooting was too hot to handle, as they made 22 shots from behind the arc as opposed to the Nuggets' seven.

Nikola Jokic had 24 points and 13 rebounds while Monte Morris contributed 21 points for Denver (26-12).

Elsewhere, Kyrie Irving returned from an eye injury and scored 17 points to lead the Boston Celtics past the Brooklyn Nets 116-95.

 

Davis double-double propels Pelicans

Anthony Davis recorded 36 points and 13 rebounds on 20 shots in the New Orleans Pelicans' 114-95 victory against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 10 rebounds in a 114-102 win over the Utah Jazz.

Blake Griffin amassed 34 points and eight assists but the Detroit Pistons still lost 119-107 to the San Antonio Spurs.

Brandon Ingram scored 29 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 107-97 win over the Dallas Mavericks.

 

Crowder struggles from the floor

Jae Crowder scored 12 points on three-of-11 shooting for the Jazz.

Grizzlies star Marc Gasol had seven points on three-of-10 shooting against the Pelicans.

 

Davis, Harden dazzle

Davis showcased his guard skills by blowing by JaMychal Green.

Harden watched Jamal Murray fold and then stepped into an easy three-pointer.

 

Monday's results

San Antonio Spurs 119-107 Detroit Pistons
Boston Celtics 116-95 Brooklyn Nets
Houston Rockets 125-113 Denver Nuggets
New Orleans Pelicans 114-95 Memphis Grizzlies
Los Angeles Lakers 107-97 Dallas Mavericks
Milwaukee Bucks 114-102 Utah Jazz
Sacramento Kings 111-95 Orlando Magic
Portland Trail Blazers 111-101 New York Knicks

 

Timberwolves at Thunder

This will be the Minnesota Timberwolves' first game since Tom Thibodeau was fired. The Oklahoma City Thunder have been one of the NBA's best, sitting third in the Western Conference. The Timberwolves won the last matchup, 114-112, so the Thunder will look to even the score.

James Harden put the end of his historic scoring streak down to flat shooting and a slow start in the Houston Rockets' 110-101 defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. 

The Rockets guard had become the first NBA player to score 40 points or more in five consecutive games, but Portland held him to 38 points on 13-of-35 shooting.

Mike D'Antoni suggested Harden could have some lingering emotions hanging on him from Thursday after their overtime win against the Golden State Warriors, but the 29-year-old felt he let his high standards slip early on.

"My shots were flat in the beginning of the game," Harden said. So I just had to adjust a little bit, get them up. That was another thing, for myself I've got to get off to a better start.

"I picked it up in the third quarter and the second half, but that first half I had the same opportunities I normally get but my shot was just a little flat."

The Rockets went 5-0 during Harden's 40-point streak and had moved up from 14th in the Western Conference to fourth after winning 11 of their past 12 games.

He joined elite company like Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson as the only players to have a run like that in the past 50 years.

"It's unbelievable now, you grade him on a sharp curve where if he gets 38, now if he doesn't get 40 it's like, 'well, what's wrong with you?'" D'Antoni said.

"He's gone up another level and he'll stay up there. And that's why when people say, 'he can't continue on this tear,' yeah he can, because he's doing it with ease, as long as he stays healthy."

While Harden acknowledged his record run was impressive, he was ready to shift his focus back to winning as he looks ahead to Houston's game against the Denver Nuggets on Monday.

"Honestly that streak is pretty cool for stats and whatnot, but honestly the win is more important," Harden said. "So, came up short [against the Blazers] and now we've got another opportunity to go home and play Denver, who's playing exceptionally well. So we've got to regroup."

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said there is an argument for superstar James Harden to be labelled the best offensive player of all time in the NBA.

Harden strengthened his MVP bid with a triple-double game-winning display as the Rockets trumped reigning champions the Golden State Warriors 135-134 in overtime on Thursday.

The 2018 MVP – who had 44 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds – recorded his fifth successive 40-point game and hit a game-winning three-pointer with just a second remaining in OT at Oracle Arena.

"You could argue for him as the best offensive player of all time," Morey told ESPN following Houston's win over their Western Conference rivals.

"To be able to say that with a straight face, and not have it be GM speak or coachspeak, is pretty amazing.

"There's a whole bunch of ways to measure it, but he's for sure in the conversation as the greatest offensive player ever."

"He's at a level that almost nobody in NBA history has been at," Morey added. "We're obviously focused on April and beyond, but it's special to watch right now."

Harden is averaging 33.6 points, 8.6 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals for the resurgent Rockets this season.

Should James Harden be better at pacing himself following numerous playoff disappointments?

General manager Daryl Morey says the Houston Rockets hope to make some moves at the trade deadline.

Speaking after the Rockets beat the Golden State Warriors 135-134 in overtime, Morey talked at length about Houston's goal to bring home the franchise's first title since 1995.

In order to do that Morey knows they have to recruit the right players to go with their current roster, working alongside Chris Paul, James Harden, Clint Capela and Eric Gordon.

When asked how active Houston will be when it comes to the trade deadline on February 7, Morey said the franchise is looking to add a piece that will give the team an upgrade.

"So what do they say - buyers v sellers? We're definitely a buyer," Morey told The Athletic. 

"I think we've been trying to win the title for a while, and we had a couple of years before we got James where we probably didn't have as much of a chance to win, where we were probably a little more future-focused.

"But since James has been here we've been buyers at the deadline and hopefully something comes along that we think can help our chances to win the title. We've had a few years where we don't, so we don't force it, but we're going to be looking for something to hopefully upgrade the team."

Harden had his fifth straight 40-point game as he led Houston to the overtime victory on Thursday. He was traded to the Rockets from the Oklahoma City Thunder in October 2012, and Morey says Houston want to do everything they can to maximise the 29-year-old's prime years.

"It’s special. He's doing stuff that no one in NBA history has done, or very few," Morey said of Harden. "You work in the league your whole life to work with a player as good as James, and it's very humbling.

"We don’t take it for granted any day. Myself, the front office, [owner] Tilman Fertitta, we feel a big responsibility to make sure that while he's in his peak years - which we feel will be for many years - that we're maximising every minute of that."

Morey reiterated that the franchise's focus remains on winning the title, acknowledging they will likely have to get past the Warriors, who have won back-to-back titles.

"We're obsessed with winning the championship," he added. "But obviously, [the Warriors are] in the way pretty much every year.

"I mean they're obviously an unbelievable team again, and we think we can get there and give them a real run for their money again. So we've been getting better throughout the season, and that was our plan, and so we're hoping to peak in April. And we'll see. Game on."

An exasperated Stephen Curry acknowledged the Golden State Warriors threw away victory by giving up a 20-point lead against the Houston Rockets on Thursday.

The Warriors were 73-53 ahead early in the third quarter, but ultimately went down 135-134 in overtime at Oracle Arena to a Rockets side once again boosted by a prolific display from James Harden.

Reigning MVP Harden forced the extra period with a three-pointer, before hitting the game-winner from beyond the arc with 2.7 seconds left on the clock.

Asked if it felt like a game Golden State had given away, Curry replied: "For sure. When you have a lead like that, you don't lose at home.

"Obviously James made a bunch of tough shots, they got the ball moving and hit a bunch of threes in the third quarter. I don't know if it's slow rotations or just a little laziness with that lead, but when you have a lead like that it's a tough way to go out."

The Warriors have now lost three games in a row at home, having also been beaten by the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers.

"All of them are terrible feelings, losing at home," added Curry, whose 35-point haul against the Rockets proved in vain.

"Our fight's there - we've just got to work on the details in terms of putting 48 minutes together. And we haven't got there yet."

Harden surpassed 40 points for the fifth game in succession as he finished with 44, in addition to 15 assists and 10 rebounds. 

"For the most part, I feel like we made him work. He just made tough shots," said Curry.

"Since CP [Chris Paul] has been out, he's obviously taken over. He's got the ball in his hands all game and he's just making plays. You've got to tip your hat to him."

After hitting a stunning game-winning three-pointer against the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets star James Harden wants people to focus more on his "greatness" than his ability to draw fouls.

Reigning MVP Harden produced his fifth straight 40-point game as the Rockets overturned a 20-point deficit to defeat the Warriors 135-134 after overtime at Oracle Arena.

The six-time All-Star forced the additional period with a 30-foot step-back jump shot and sealed a sixth successive win for the Rockets by making a heavily contested effort from beyond the arc with 2.7 seconds remaining.

Harden leads the NBA in free throws attempted (11.1) and made (9.4) per game and prior to the match Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Harden was "changing the game" with the way he draws fouls.

Asked if he felt too much energy was spent on critiquing that aspect of his play, Harden said: "Exactly. I've got the total package. I get to the basket, I'm aggressive and I shoot my shot.

"Don't foul me on my jump shot and we won't have to talk about it. It's as simple as that.

"[People] talk too much about my fouls and not actually the greatness of what I'm doing out on the court. That's what we need to focus on."

Harden had 15 assists and 10 rebounds to go with his 44 points – his second straight triple-double – and the guard made no attempt to hide the depth of his self-belief.

"Through the roof," he said when asked about his current confidence levels.

"It's been like that and credit to my team-mates for making big shots, making big-time defensive plays. Clint [Capela] had a 20-20 game, Gerald [Green] came in and made some big-time shots.

"It was a total team effort and I just had to go out and do my part to the highest level."

Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said the Rockets had "lost our swagger" after a 1-5 start to the season, but, despite the absences of Chris Paul and Eric Gordon due to injury, Harden has no doubt the team are back on track after improving to 22-15.

"It's there for sure. One thing that's important too, we're guarding as a team, we're helping each other out offensively, we're making shots, we're moving, we're doing everything necessary for us to win," he said.

"You [have] got to continue to do that. It's a grind every single game. When we're not making shots we've still got to be aggressive offensively, take our shots and have that confidence and more times than not good things will happen."

James Harden strengthened his MVP bid with a game-winning display to lead the Houston Rockets past the Golden State Warriors 135-134 in overtime. 

Houston Rockets star James Harden wants to win a second consecutive MVP award.

Harden won his first MVP and helped lead Houston to within one game of an NBA Finals appearance last season.

He was unstoppable in December and has carried the Rockets to fourth place in the Western Conference, despite a 1-5 start.

"I need it, I need it for sure, and I'm gonna get it," Harden told The Athletic on Wednesday.

Houston have won nine of their past 10 games. Harden has averaged 40.8 points per game during that stretch and shows no signs of showing down.

The Warriors fell short to a struggling Rockets team earlier this season, so Houston will try to replicate their last result against the Warriors on Thursday.

James Harden believes he is probably playing the best basketball of his career after making history in the Houston Rockets' win over the Memphis Grizzlies on New Year's Eve

The reigning MVP ended 2018 by becoming the first player to score 35 points or more and provide at least five assists in eight consecutive NBA games.

Harden put on another dazzling show at Toyota Center, scoring 43 points, laying on 13 assists and clutching 10 rebounds in a 113-101 victory.

The irrepressible guard replied "probably" with a smile when asked if he feels he is performing better than ever.

Harden added: "I'm just being aggressive, I'm just in attack mode.

"They tried to shake some things up tonight and run a double team at me and whatnot. I did a poor job of just not controlling the basketball, basically giving them transition points on my turnover.

"I've got to take care of the ball more, but just continue to be aggressive and make plays for my team."

Mike D'Antoni lavished praise on his star man after another outstanding showing.

"He could have had 60 [points] tonight if we had spaced him out a little bit and he didn't have to come back so early in the fourth quarter and in different circumstances." said the Rockets head coach 

"He's just got a mastery of the game. They're double teaming him and we just get our guys by. That won't happen most of the time."

Quizzed if Harden is playing better than ever, he added: "I haven't seen his whole life, but in the last three years... I don't know how you get any better than what he's playing.

"Defensively too, offensively, he comes up with steals, triple double like's it's nothing. He's playing a different level."

In-form Houston Rockets star James Harden is not shying away from comparisons to Oscar Robertson, saying his aim is to be considered as one of the NBA's greatest ever players.

Harden scored 41 points as the Rockets beat the New Orleans Pelicans 108-104 on Saturday, joining Robertson as the only players in NBA history to have tallied 35 points and five assists in seven straight games.

The Houston guard was delighted to match the achivements of the the Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks great, but he plans to continue to be recognised in such company.

"That's what I play for," Harden told reporters. "That's what you play the game of basketball for, to be mentioned by name with the greats.

"Obviously, I have a long way to go, but that's what I put my jersey on for, that's what I lace my shoes up for, to go out there and be the best that I can be and, when it's all said and done, be mentioned as one of the best basketball players to ever touch a basketball."

Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni was purring as he discussed Harden's contribution.

"I've said it a thousand times - and I don't think I'm wrong because I get to watch it every night - but you don't get better than what he does offensively," he said.

"No-one's better. Then he's also coming up with steals and rebounds. He does a lot."

New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry was full of praise for James Harden.

Before the Pelicans tipped off against the Houston Rockets in New Orleans on Saturday, Gentry spoke of the superstar's elite talent.

"He's the best iso player in the world, really," he said, via the Houston Chronicle.

"I don't know if there's anybody you can say is better in the history of this league, really, as far as drawing fouls and making plays in an iso situation."

Despite losing Chris Paul to a hamstring injury, Houston have put together an impressive string of games. Harden has been on fire.

The Rockets have won eight of their last 10, and Harden has totalled an astounding 388 points. The reigning MVP also has the most 40-point games (eight) in the NBA this season.

While he has remained a controversial figure due to his knack for drawing fouls to rack up points at the free-throw line, he has continued to dominate opposing defenses. Harden leads the league in scoring and is averaging a career-high 32.7 points.

Houston entered Saturday's game with a 19-15 record, which ranks sixth in the Western Conference.

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