HOUSTON -- Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni worried Monday that James Harden was "dog tired" and would have to carry an even heavier burden with the news that a thumb injury would sideline center Clint Capela for four to six weeks and leave Houston without three starters.
Harden's horrible 3-point shooting in Sunday's road loss to the Orlando Magic hinted that fatigue might be a factor for the reigning league MVP. However, Harden responded by scoring a season-high 57 points Monday night, continuing his historic run by carrying the Rockets to a 112-94 home win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
"What he just did, we kind of take it for granted a little bit," said D'Antoni, who recorded the 600th win of his NBA coaching career. "It's like, 'Oh, look at that, isn't that cute? It's 57!' I mean, on dead legs and he played 43 minutes last night. It's beyond impressive. It's rare that people can do what he's done, if anybody."
Harden indeed entered rare air with his 17th consecutive game scoring at least 30 points. It's the longest such streak since Wilt Chamberlain had 20 straight 30-plus-point performances in 1964. The only other players with streaks of 16 straight 30-point games since Chamberlain were Kobe Bryant in 2003 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1972.
Harden, who has led the Rockets to a 13-4 record during this run, shrugged at being part of such exclusive company.
"The win was important," Harden said. "I've got to get some rest tomorrow and be ready to go Wednesday. Same thing."
Harden extended his streak with time to spare before halftime. He scored a team-record 36 points in the first half, one shy of Vernon Maxwell's franchise record for points in either half.
Harden, who finished three points shy of his franchise record, was 17-of-33 from the floor, including 6-of-15 from 3-point range, and 17-of-18 from the free throw line before receiving a standing ovation when he exited the game with 3:35 remaining.
The Rockets had lost three of their previous five games entering Monday, and MRI results revealed ligament damage in Capela's right thumb that sources say will need to be surgically repaired. With guards Eric Gordon (knee bruise) and Chris Paul (hamstring strain) still out, the Rockets' spirits easily could have sagged.
Harden didn't let that happen, scoring two-thirds of Houston's points in the first half while D'Antoni tinkered with the rotation, quickly opting to play small lineups when 36-year-old fill-in starting center Nene Hilario rested.
The Rockets took a commanding lead in the third quarter when Harden's teammates heated up, hitting 7 of their 11 3-point attempts in the frame.
Harden says the win is more important than 57 points
James Harden says that getting the win after hearing the news about Clint Capela was more important than his own scoring.
"I don't know if it was an emotional lift," Harden said of the win, which improved the Rockets' record to 25-18. "I know that we had to win the game. I know we let one slip away last night, and it was another opportunity for us to win tonight. I don't know if it was an emotional lift, but I know it's crunch time in the sense that we've got three starters out and guys have got to pick up the slack. There's no excuse."
Harden hit the 50-point milestone for the third time this season and 12th time in his career, passing 50 points on an and-1 step-back 3-pointer over Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green. The only players in NBA history who have more 50-point games are Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Bryant, Elgin Baylor and Rick Barry. LeBron James also has 12 50-point performances.
Rockets guard Austin Rivers was in awe of how Harden moved on from his off night in the loss to the Magic, when Harden was 1-of-17 from 3-point range. Harden quickly made it clear his confidence wasn't affected, hitting his first two 3-point attempts early in the fourth quarter despite being defended tightly by Grizzlies rookie guard Jevon Carter.
"It just doesn't even faze him," Rivers said. "He comes into tonight like he was 17-of-17. That's just the mindset that the great ones have. I'm telling you right now, if another player in the league went 1-for-17, they would come into tonight a little f---ed up. Excuse my language, a little messed up. James comes in [confident], and that's just why he is who he is."
Harden, who had set an NBA record by making at least five 3s in 12 consecutive games before Sunday, poked fun at the possibility of one off night impacting his confidence.
"I went 1-of-17? Shoot, that's a lot of 3s missed. Wow," Harden said with a smile before getting serious again. "If I make six of them, it's on. It's a 60-point game. So, Orlando got lucky last night."
Information from ESPN's Stats & Information was used in this report.