Houston Rockets’ guard, James Harden, has written his name in the history books once again with an amazing performance in Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of basketball.
James Harden has been putting up historic scoring numbers for the Rockets over the last couple of months, but he didn’t yet have a stand out game in Madison Square Garden in his resume, at least not until Wednesday night.
The Knicks hadn’t won at home since they defeated the Bucks in overtime back on Dec. 1. They would’ve beaten the Rockets, had it not been for a historic scoring performance from James Harden.
The Beard dropped 61 points, setting a new Rockets franchise record for points scored, a new personal career high and he tied Kobe Bryant‘s record for most points scored in The Garden by an opponent. It was a night that Harden will likely one day tell his grandchildren about.
The Rockets got off to a slow start and trailed New York 31-28 at the end of the first quarter. The Knicks led by as much as 13 in the first quarter, before Harden led the Rockets back within striking distance. Harden’s layup to beat the buzzer at halftime cut New York’s lead to just 5 points, and it also gave Harden his 36th point.
The Rockets took control of the game in the third, out scoring the Knicks 30 to 15. After New York shot sky-high percentages from the field in the first half, Houston’s defense and the law of averages cooled the Knicks off in the third. The Rockets went into the fourth up 88-78.
Harden sat just three minutes in the fourth, but New York quickly cut the lead to just six while he took his early quarter rest. Harden played well throughout the fourth quarter, and after Knicks’ coach David Fizdale was ejected for arguing with the refs, Harden’s technical free throw put the Rockets up 107-101 with 1:08 left.
The game was all but over right? Well, not quite.
Allonzo Trier was fouled on a 3-point shot by P.J. Tucker on the next play, and he nailed all of his free throws, trimming Houston’s lead to just 3 points. Then Eric Gordon inbounded the ball to Tucker, who stepped back and didn’t pick the ball up. Noah Vonleh stole the ball and laid it in and now the score shows 107-106. New York went on a 6-0 run in 11 seconds.
James Ennis missed a corner 3 on the other end and Emmanuel Mudiay got fouled and nailed both of his free throws, giving New York a one point lead. Harden made two free throws on the next possession, putting the Rockets back ahead, but then Trier was giving a free lane to the hoop, putting the Knicks up 110-109 with 20 seconds remaining in regulation.
Coming out of the timeout, Eric Gordon was handling the ball with Harden setting a screen at the top of the key. New York over played Harden to keep the ball out of his hands, which left Gordon with a wide open 3-pointer. He drained it, putting Houston up 112-110.
After New York’s timeout, Gordon came up clutch again, knocking the ball away from Vonleh. Harden picked it up, ran the distance of the court and threw down a thunderous jam that echoed through The Garden to put the final nail in the coffin. When the clock hit triple zeroes, the scoreboard read Rockets 114, Knicks 110.
James Harden finished with 61 points, all unassisted, and he also grabbed a season high 15 rebounds and came up with 5 steals. The Beard has now scored at least 30 points in 21 consecutive games. He has eclipsed 50 points four times over that span and has scored at least 57 points three times in the last five games.
Harden continues to build his case for another MVP and it’s hard to argue that any other player deserves the award over him.