Harden Goes Hard…for 51

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 James Harden continues to strengthen his case for the MVP award, and is forging a place as one of the best players in Houston Rockets history in the process.

He had a career-high 51 points, and the Rockets squandered a huge early lead but held on for a 115-111 win over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.

The performance surpassed Harden’s previous career best of 50 points, which came on March 19. It’s his 33rd 30-point game this season and the ninth time he’s scored 40 this season, which both lead the NBA.

He’s the first player in the history of a franchise with Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Moses Malone to have two 50-point games in a season. There have only been 10 in team history.

“He finds a way to wow our team every time he goes out there,” Houston’s Trevor Ariza said. “He’s just so crafty and he can score so many different ways. It’s definitely fun to watch.”

Houston was up by nine with about eight minutes left when Sacramento used a 9-2 spurt to get within 104-102 with 5 remaining. An 8-0 run by Harden, which he capped with a 3-point play, pushed the lead to 112-104.

Four straight points by the Kings cut the lead to four with less than a minute left, but they didn’t score after that.

DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings with his second career triple-double with 24 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists after missing Monday’s game to rest. He also tied a career best with six blocks.

“I’ve never coached a guy that can put up so many things into a game,” Kings coach George Karl said. “He has a triple-double, but really has a quadruple-double because he had six blocks, three steals and at least one or maybe two charges. There are another 10 possessions he gave us because of his defensive abilities.”

Harden, who scored 17 points in the third quarter, had 49 points before knocking down a pair of free throws with less than two minutes left to eclipse his previous high-point game

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