LOS ANGELES: James Harden was an unstoppable force, pouring in a career-high 56 points as the Houston Rockets rolled over the visiting Utah Jazz 137-110 on Sunday (Monday in Manila).
The all-star guard Harden also had 13 assists and made 19 of 25 shots from the field as he finished just one point shy of the team record of 57 set by Hall of Fame guard Calvin Murphy during the 1977-78 NBA season.
The 28-year-old American missed his final four shot attempts in pursuit of the franchise mark before leaving the game for good.
“No,” Harden said when asked if he was aware of the franchise mark. “We won, right?”
Harden finished seven of eight from three-point range while making 11 of 12 free throws.
With his final basket in the third quarter, Harden surpassed his previous career high of 53 points.
“To me, what makes him even more difficult is his intelligence as a player,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
“He’s able to recognize situations because he is so talented and sometimes you don’t see the subtleties of his game, his intelligence.
“He’s an intelligent guy and there was really not much we can do.”
Houston hit 23 of 39 three-point attempts, with guard Eric Gordon shooting six of 11 from deep while adding 20 points.
Trevor Ariza tallied 14 points while making four of eight three-pointers. Nene added 13 off the bench.
All five Utah starters scored in double figures, but rookie guard Donovan Mitchell came off the bench to pace the Jazz offence with 17 points.
The Jazz darted to a 10-2 lead before the Rockets stormed back behind Harden, who scored 30 first-half points and made his first 10 shots en route to his sixth career 50-point game.
Elsewhere, the Boston Celtics used another smothering defensive performance and a balanced attack to win their eighth straight game with a 104-88 victory over the Orlando Magic.
Second-year guard Jaylen Brown scored a team-high 18 points for Boston, who have compiled the best record in the NBA by allowing the fewest points in the league (99.1 per game).
Al Horford had 14 points and 10 rebounds as the Celtics improved to 8-2 on the season.
Jayson Tatum scored 13 points, and Marcus Morris, in his first start of the season after returning from a knee injury, had 12 points and seven boards.
Aaron Gordon led the Magic with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Jonathon Simmons had 14 points for Orlando, while Nikola Vucevic tallied 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
The Celtics built an 87-71 lead by opening the fourth quarter with a 10-2 scoring burst which was sparked by a quick six points from Morris. The Magic were unable to muster a serious challenge from then on.
Hawks end losing skid
In Cleveland, Dennis Schroder scored 28 points and the shorthanded Atlanta Hawks put the brakes on their eight-game losing streak by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 117-115.
The Hawks built a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter but nearly let it slip away. Channing Frye missed a three-pointer with one second to go that would have won it for Cleveland, and Dwyane Wade’s missed tip-in at the buzzer would have tied it.
The Hawks, who were without five key players, had not won since opening night.
The Cavaliers are also struggling and have lost five of their last six games. LeBron James scored 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, Kyle Korver added 23 and Wade finished the game with 25 points.
Cleveland’s Kevin Love left the contest in the third quarter because of an illness. Love was sent to the Cleveland Clinic where he was treated and then released.