DALLAS – The win had finally been secured, but with minutes left, the large numbers in the middle of the scoreboard were no longer the point. James Harden’s streak of games scoring 30 was on the line and every finger crossed in Toyota Center was to bring luck to the remainder of the chase.
The Mavericks were trapping the ball out of Harden’s hands, which if it were not the strategy from the opening tip, would have been like walking Joe DiMaggio in the eighth inning.
Harden had reached the final minutes on Monday still well short of the 30 he’d need to extend his streak, but as the Rockets finished a 120-104 run past the Mavericks, he tended to unfinished business.
With less than three minutes left, Harden was still 10 points shy of 30. He had made 3 of 14 3-pointers. He was mostly giving the ball up.
He had missed a 3-pointer on his first possession back on the floor, moving to 3 of 14 from deep, and then moved the ball on each of the next three trips down the floor, showing no interest in a streak as much as to avoid another come-from-ahead loss.
He turned the ball on a pass out of a double team before passing to Gordon and Iman Shumpert for 3s that both missed. Justin Jackson put in a jumper before a Jaylen Brunson 3-pointer and Maxi Kleber bucket pulled the Mavericks to within nine.
Finally, after five-consecutive missed 3-pointers, Chris Paul put in his fifth 3-pointer of the night and Harden went to work. Harden sank a 3 before dropping in a step-back 3 with 1:57 left, the Rockets led by 15 and Harden was four points away from extending his 30-point scoring streak.
He drew a foul on a drive, making a pair of free throws with 1:18 remaining. Finally, after the Mavericks trapped the ball out of his hands, Paul returned it for a final shot, with Harden sinking his 3-pointer with 51.9 seconds remaining, giving him 30-consecutive games scoring at least 30 points, one shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s second-longest streak.
For much of the night, the Rockets relied on balance.
In a twist that in some ways the Rockets might have considered encouraging, Harden got off to a slow start, but it did not matter.
With the Mavericks trapping Harden on the perimeter and later mixing in some zone, it might have been just as well for the Rockets to have other shooters start well, anyway. So while Harden made 1 of 7 shots in the first quarter when Paul missed his only two attempts, the Rockets led through much of the quarter as the role player portion of the rotation made 8 of 14 attempts, nearly all from deep.
Harden and Paul each made a pair of 3s in the second quarter so by halftime, they joined, Gerald Green and Iman Shumpert with two 3-pointers each while Eric Gordon had three.
When Luka Doncic slowed down after hitting his first three attempts, making 1 of his next 8, …read more
Source:: Daily times