James Harden scores 51 in Houston Rockets' win vs. Philadelphia 76ers

By Gordie Jones, The Sports Xchange
James Harden scores 51 in Houston Rockets' win vs. Philadelphia 76ers
James Harden of the Houston Rockets is interviewed by journalists during a team practice at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China, 11 October 2016. Photo by ROLEX DELA PENA/epa

PHILADELPHIA -- After a rare off night on Wednesday, Houston Rockets guard James Harden felt the need for more practice.

The fruits of his labors were on full display Friday night, when he collected 51 points, 13 assists and 13 rebounds in the Rockets' 123-118 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.


Afterward he said he "just tried to be aggressive" and be in "attack mode."

He also felt the need to pick things up after going 6-of-18 from the floor, and 2-of-11 from 3-point range, while nonetheless scoring 30 points in the Rockets' loss in Boston on Wednesday night.

"I had to get back in the gym yesterday and put extra shots up and get my confidence up a little bit," he said.

He went 16-of-28 from the floor, 6-of-11 from the arc and 13-of-14 from the foul line against the Sixers.


"He played about as good as you can play," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Obviously, he pulled us out tonight."

Harden has had more than his share of big nights this season. On Dec. 31, he matched Wilt Chamberlain for the most points in a triple-double when he scored a career-high 53 against the New York Knicks, adding 17 assists and 16 rebounds.

On Friday night, he recorded his 14th triple-double of the season. It was also the 18th time he has accumulated over 30 points and 10 assists. The latter is the highest single-season total since such numbers were first tracked in 1983-84, according to

"You saw an NBA All-Star," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "You saw a gold medalist. You saw a legitimate candidate for MVP."

Brown said the Sixers were hesitant to double-team Harden and leave the Rockets' many 3-point shooters open.

"You have to pick your poison," he said. "You say, 'What sword are we going to die on?' And you saw it."

Nene added a season-high 21 points and Clint Capella had 17 for the Rockets, who snapped a two-game losing streak.


Philadelphia rookie center Joel Embiid topped the Sixers with 32 points, one shy of his career high.

Embiid missed the three previous games with an injury that was described by the team as a left-knee contusion. He offered more clarity after the game.

"The doctor told me it's a bone bruise," he said. "It's supposed to take at least two or three weeks to heal. I only missed a week."

Embiid said the knee felt "a little bit sore" after making 11 of 20 shots, grabbing seven rebounds, handing out four assists and blocking two shots.

"You see signs of brilliance," Brown said of his young center. "You see signs he's young and still learning to play NBA basketball. In the end, you walk away saying he could be whatever he wants to be."

T.J. McConnell and Gerald Henderson added 13 points each for the Sixers, who saw a two-game winning streak and a six-game home winning streak come to an end.

Harden notched 17 of his points in the final 8:19, after Embiid crammed 11 points into the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, helping the Sixers shave a 12-point deficit to five.


Harden also scored 19 points in the third quarter.

Embiid opened the night's scoring with a driving left-handed dunk -- "a jaw-dropping play," in Brown's estimation, because it involved a 7-2 center driving to the basket and finishing with his off hand.

Nene answered with a layup and dunk of his own over the next few minutes, setting the tone for a

fast-paced, back-and-forth night.

The Rockets had 17 of their 25 turnovers and the Sixers 13 of their 22 in the first half, but both teams also shot over 60 percent from the floor.

Houston led by 11 at one point, but Philadelphia ran off eight straight points to go up 61-56 lead late in the second quarter. Harden answered by nailing a short jumper, then a 3-pointer with two seconds remaining in the period to forge a 61-all tie at the break.

Harden and Nene both had 15 points in the half, and Harden added seven assists and six rebounds. Sixers reserve guard Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot also scored all 12 of his points before the break, matching his career high.

Embiid added 11 for Philadelphia.

Harden then piled up 12 points in the first 3:22 of the second half as Houston's advantage swelled to 77-64.


Harden capped his 19-point quarter with a fadeaway jumper from the left corner at the buzzer, after which he tumbled into the front row of the stands.


-- Sixers coach Brett Brown called C Joel Embiid's failure to make the All-Star team "a little blip on his radar" and added that there is "no doubt" he belongs. "His time will come, in multiples," Brown said.

-- Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni spent part of last season as a Sixers assistant and said it could have been "a little dicey there," given that he had previously served as head coach in Phoenix under Sixers advisor Jerry Colangelo and his son Bryan, now the team's general manager. But D'Antoni said Brown "really welcomed" him and that the two of them are "great friends."

-- Houston G Eric Gordon missed his second straight game with lower back tightness.

-- Sixers C Jahlil Okafor was in uniform after missing the two previous games with a sore right knee. He did not play, however.

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