James Harden extends 30-point streak, makes key defensive stop

James Harden extended his streak of 30-point games, but his biggest effort came on the Houston Rockets’ final defensive possession against the Toronto Raptors.

Harden scored 35 points, his 22nd consecutive game with at least 30, and helped force Kawhi Leonard into a missed 3 at the buzzer as the Rockets held on for a 121-119 win against the Raptors on Friday night. The reigning MVP struggled from the field, shooting 9-for-25 overall and 2-for-13 from 3-point range, but Harden went 15-for-15 on free throws to help Houston avoid a late collapse.

Toronto scored nine consecutive points in the final 1:14 and had a chance to tie or win at the buzzer. On the final possession, Leonard got matched up with Harden on a switch. Leonard couldn’t drive, and Harden forced him into a tough fadeaway 3 from the right wing that came up short of the rim.

Houston won consecutive games for the first time in three weeks and improved to 28-20 to stay in the thick of the tight Western Conference playoff race. The Rockets are 17-6 since Dec. 8 and have moved from 14th place in the West to fifth.

Eric Gordon scored 24 points for the Rockets, and Kenneth Faried had 21 points and 14 rebounds in his third game since signing with Houston last week.

Leonard led the Raptors with 32 points. Danny Green and Pascal Siakim each scored 22 as Toronto lost its second in a row.

Harden’s streak of 30-point games is the longest since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77 and the fourth-longest all-time. He’s averaging 42.8 points during the run and has raised his season scoring average to 36.2. In the last 40 years, only Michael Jordan has averaged more over a season (37.1 in 1986-87).

Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.

 

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