James Harden on Saturday tied Michael Jordan for the third-most 60-point performances in NBA history as the Houston Rockets blasted the Atlanta Hawks 158-111.
Harden finished with 60 points to reach the mark for the fourth time and tie Jordan. Only two players, Kobe Bryant (six) and Wilt Chamberlain (32) have more.
“That’s greatness right there. Those guys are something that I’m trying to get to,” said Harden, who finished one point shy of his career high of 61. “Hopefully when I am done, I can be mentioned in that group forever.”
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Harden made 16 of 24 field-goal attempts, including eight of 14 from three-point range, and connected on 20 of 23 free-throw attempts. He played just 31 minutes and also had eight assists.
He is the fourth player to score 50 or more points on 20 occasions, trailing Chamberlain (118), Jordan (31) and Bryant (25).
“It’s like everything else he does — unbelievable,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Photo: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY
The two-time reigning league scoring champion came into the game averaging 37.7 points per game and has now scored 40 or more points eight times.
His offense has been boosted this season by the addition of guard Russell Westbrook in the backcourt. Opponents have tried without success to slow him down by double-teaming him.
Harden sat for the full fourth quarter with Houston up 127-73 at the end of three.
“What he’s doing has not been seen,” teammate Austin Rivers said. “My man had 60 and didn’t play the fourth quarter. Name another player who could do that right now.”
The Rockets have now won their past four games against the hapless Hawks, who are the last-placed team in their conference with just four wins in 20 games.
“We came locked in and we didn’t get a great start, but we rode it out,” Harden said.
Elsewhere, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 26 points as the Milwaukee Bucks breezed to their 11th consecutive victory with a 137-96 rout of the Charlotte Hornets.
Despite his superb performance, Antetokounmpo’s double-double streak to begin the season was halted at 19 games.
The reigning NBA most valuable player finished just shy of the double-double with nine rebounds and shot 11 of 19 from the field.
His was the longest such streak since Bill Walton recorded 34 straight in 1976-1977.
The Eastern Conference-leading Bucks were 15-1 for last month.
The Hornets cut the deficit to three points early in the second quarter, but that was as close as they would get.
In Philadelphia, Joel Embiid had 32 points, 11 rebounds and nailed all 15 of his free throws as the 76ers edged the Indiana Pacers 119-116.
It was Embiid’s 12th double-double as the Sixers won their third in a row.
“I changed my mindset,” Embiid said. “I hadn’t been as aggressive, so I’ve been more aggressive creating contact and causing other people to foul me.”
Tobias Harris scored 22 points and Al Horford added 15 points in the win. T.J. Warren led the Pacers with 29 points, while Malcolm Brogdon added 28.
Ben Simmons had three steals in the final 13.9 seconds to seal the win for the Sixers.
“I love being able to get steals and turn guys over,” said Simmons, who finished with 15 points and 13 assists. “I take pride in it and it gives us energy.”
In Sacramento, California, Harrison Barnes scored six of his season-high 30 points in overtime and Buddy Hield hit two free throws with 9.5 seconds remaining as the Kings beat the Denver Nuggets 100-97 in overtime.
Additional reporting by AP
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