Rockets' Harden takes high-scoring show to New York
James Harden is doing something nobody has seen since the heyday of Wilt Chamberlain. The New York Knicks are doing something to which Knicks fans have long grown accustomed.
Two entirely different streaks will be on display Wednesday night, when the Knicks host Harden and the Houston Rockets at Madison Square Garden.
Both teams were off Tuesday after losing Monday, when the Knicks fell to the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder 127-109, and the Rockets dropped a 121-93 decision to the host Philadelphia 76ers.
Harden sat out the fourth quarter of the Rockets' lopsided loss but still made history by scoring 37 points. It was his 20th consecutive 30-point effort, the longest streak in the NBA since Chamberlain scored at least 30 points in 20 straight games from Jan. 30, 1964, through March 1, 1964.
"I mean, he's incredible, he really is," Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni said afterward. "I can't tell you -- I've run out of words. My vocabulary is not that extensive."
There have been only three longer streaks of 30-point games in NBA history, all authored by Chamberlain. The longest is a 65-game run during the 1961-62 season, a stretch that included Chamberlain's 100-point game.
Such numbers seem untouchable, yet Harden, who has collected two 50-point games while racking up 200 points in his last four games, is in the process of making anything appear possible.
"Wilt was doing some obviously unbelievable things and (putting up) numbers that nobody will ever catch, but just to be in the same conversation as those guys is a credit to the work that I put in," Harden said.
"That's what you play this game for, to be listed with those guys, the top players. Obviously, I have a long way to go, but this is a pretty cool beginning."
The Knicks, meanwhile, are in the midst of a funk that shows no signs of ending soon. The loss Monday was the sixth straight and the 19th in the last 21 games for New York, which appears to be in a four-way race for the best chance at the top lottery pick with the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns.
As rough as the season has been for the Knicks, this is not even the franchise's worst stretch of the last five seasons. New York had a 1-17 run last year and went 1-26 over a 27-game stretch during the 2014-15 campaign.
Things aren't likely to get better against Harden and the Rockets. The Knicks are allowing 115.7 points per game, the third-highest figure in the NBA entering Tuesday, and in the process of infusing even more youth into a roster that was already among the most inexperienced in the league.
Head coach David Fizdale said center Enes Kanter, who is averaging a double-double (14.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game) and is a mere 26 years old, is going to be phased out of the rotation in favor of Luke Kornet and Mitchell Robinson.
Kanter might get a reprieve, though, after Kornet suffered an ankle injury Monday that will keep him out of action for at least the rest of this week.
"We're thinking big picture," Fizdale said following Monday's game. "Who's a winner? Who's going to be a guy that can help us win going into the future?"
--Field Level Media
Updated January 23, 2019