LOS ANGELES (AFP) - James Harden produced a scintillating late burst of scoring to extend his remarkable 30-point scoring streak to 30 games on Monday as the Houston Rockets defeated the Dallas Mavericks 120-104.
The reigning NBA MVP had been bidding to become only the second player in history after Wilt Chamberlain to score at least 30 points in 30 consecutive games as the Rockets hosted the Mavs.
But Harden’s run of 30-point games looked to be in serious jeopardy after a dogged performance by the Mavericks, who often double-teamed the Rockets ace in an attempt to staunch his scoring ability.
With around three minutes remaining, Harden looked to be in trouble with only 20 points against his name.
However back-to-back three pointers took him to 26 points with 1:57 on the clock, and he moved to 28 points after two free throws with just over a minute remaining.
With the Toyota Center home crowd roaring him on, Harden broke the 30-point barrier with a three-pointer to finish with 31 points on the night.
Harden is now one game shy of Chamberlain’s tally of 31 consecutive 30-point games for second place on the all-time list. Chamberlain also holds the outright record with a streak of 65 30-point games.
Harden later spoke of his satisfaction to have joined Chamberlain as the only player to have reached 30 30-point games.
“That’s one of the greatest ever to touch a basketball,” Harden said. “It’s an honour to be in that conversation.
“Obviously I have a long way to go but it’s a start. Just trying to keep it going.”
Elsewhere Monday, Kawhi Leonard drained the game-winner with 4.4 seconds left with a 30-point display as the Toronto Raptors outlasted the Brooklyn Nets with a 127-125 victory on Tuesday.
Leonard, who had averaged just over 17 points per game in his previous four appearances, went 50 percent from the field to lead the scoring for the Raptors.
The win boosted the Raptors to 42-16, to see them keep pace with the Milwaukee Bucks at the top of the Eastern Conference.
In Chicago meanwhile, Giannis Antetokounmpo warmed up for the All-Star week with a 29-point haul to help Milwaukee power to a 112-99 win over the Bulls.
Antetokounmpo also had 17 rebounds and eight assists in the win which sees the Bucks remain on top of the Eastern Conference with 42 wins and 14 defeats.
Oklahoma City Thunder meanwhile had a 47-point performance from Paul George at the centre of their 120-111 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
George was backed with yet another triple-double night from Russell Westbrook, who had 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.