EditorsNote: Edit 1: Recast third and fourth grafs
James Harden matched his career high with 61 points, delivering early and late to bail out the host Houston Rockets in their 111-105 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday at Toyota Center.
Harden, who also scored 61 points on Jan. 23 at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks, finished 19 of 34 from the floor while drilling 9 of 13 from 3-point range.
After the Rockets coughed up a 19-point third-quarter lead and fell into a 100-94 hole late in the fourth, Harden responded with three successive 3-pointers and a pair of drives to the basket to secure the victory, the Rockets’ third consecutive win over the Spurs.
San Antonio had won nine of its previous 10 games but has now lost two straight after dropping a game to Miami on Wednesday, 110-105.
Chris Paul added 18 points, including four free throws inside the final minute to seal the win. Eric Gordon added 12 points for Houston, but Harden was the showstopper, posting his second consecutive 50-point game and eighth on the season. No other NBA player has more than one.
Bryn Forbes led five Spurs in double figures with 20 points while Derrick White added 18 with eight rebounds. DeMar DeRozan posted 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists while LaMarcus Aldridge paired 10 points with five blocks for San Antonio, which captured its first lead at 85-84 on a Patty Mills reverse layup with 10:48 left to play.
The Spurs trailed 66-47 on a Paul pull-up jumper at the 10:55 mark of the third before igniting a comeback with a 9-0 spurt.
When Jakob Poeltl added the second of his two tip-ins just prior to the third-quarter buzzer, the Spurs pulled even at 81-81 entering the fourth.
They appeared poised to earn a season-series split before Harden pulled victory out of the fire with yet another MVP-caliber effort.
Harden produced another otherworldly individual performance, tallying 27 first-quarter points on 7-of-10 shooting to pace the Rockets’ 36-point period.
He scored 10 of 13 points for Houston during one stretch midway through the period, and after assisting on an Iman Shumpert 3 for a 26-17 lead at the 4:12 mark, Harden recorded the final 10 points of the frame for the Rockets.
—Field Level Media