James Harden keeps the faith, breaks shooting slump

During his entire three-game shooting slump, James Harden kept the faith.

You just have to.

You can't listen to the noise outside your own world about how you've made just 9 percent of your 3-pointers, or that the field goal percentage next to your name looks more like a pitcher's batting average (.222).

Harden's numbers were terrible over those three games. He's a much better player than what he's shown in the first week of the season, and while he didn't need a mental break or say he was one of the worst players in the league, he kept playing.

He stayed in the gym.

And in the big gym in downtown Houston on Monday, Harden finally emerged from his scoring slump. He scored a season-high 37 points on 12-of-26 shooting in leading the Houston Rockets to their first win of the season, a 110-105 victory over Oklahoma City on Monday night.

"I'm sure all great shooters go through droughts," said Harden, who made 4 of 12 3-pointers. "Mine was pretty terrible, I admit. But it will change and it will all come around. It's a long season and I've gone five-, six-, 10-game streaks when I'm on fire. It will even itself out. Just staying confident and being humble about it."

This victory curtailed the noise surrounding the Rockets, who had started 0-3 and watched the other elite teams in the Western Conference scoot by them.

Harden and his teammates kept saying the chemistry would come, even when faced with the daunting task of beating a 3-0 Thunder team.

In order to break the losing streak, Harden needed to take over.

"I felt like James went out there and played his game today; when you just go play, anything will turn around for you," Corey Brewer said. "It's basketball you got to play; I think we good now."

Harden took over at important moments during a back-and-forth second half. He wasn't flashy with his typical Euro-step drives, but he stuck to his outside shooting and found spaces in the defense to make measured moves to the basket. After hitting his first two shots of the game, the old James Harden took over.

Harden's third-quarter 3-pointer pushed the Rockets to a 75-71 lead. Later, he drove the lane and drew a foul on Kyle Singler, picking up his 27th and 28th points on the ensuing free throws.

And he was more than just offense.

Harden blocked Enes Kanter's reverse layup and took the ball the other way, driving to the basket only to kick out to Patrick Beverley who nailed a corner 3, pushing the Rockets to a one-point edge.

When the third quarter ended, Harden had compiled a plus-14 in the box score in 12 minutes.

"I hit the first two shots and I was like, 'OK, I got something today,'" Harden said. "It all goes back to the work, usually on shootarounds. When we have back-to-backs, we don't have shootarounds, and I came in this morning and put some shots up, just to get my mind right mentally. That's what I've got to do. I've got to continue to just work; it doesn't matter if I make or miss shots. If I'm putting the work in, the confidence will be there."

Harden sat during the early stages of the fourth quarter. He returned as Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were trying to take over the game for the Thunder. Harden and his group matched them.

Harden beat his former teammate in Westbrook on a drive and smashed a 3 for a 97-93 lead. With the crowd going crazy, Harden flexed his muscles and stirred up the cooking motion he does with his hands.

Yeah, he was back.

His final basket from the field was a 3 over Westbrook with 2:15 remaining, pushing the lead to seven.

And while Harden missed his last two jumpers of the night, Dwight Howard, of all people, clinched the game with two free throws with 5.7 seconds left, giving the Rockets their first win of the season.

"The only other option is to quit," Houston coach Kevin McHale said. "You would never get here if you lost faith in yourself because I can promise you everybody said you can't play in the Pac-10. No, it doesn't happen. You retire when you do that. When you go 'I don't have it, I'm all done -- that's when you're all done.'"

Harden isn't done.

For the Rockets, they're hoping he's just getting started.

"It goes back to the work I put in," Harden said. "As long as I can continue to work and continue to stay in that gym and focus and work on my game, there will be some streaks where I go terrible in the first three games and there will be some streaks where I just go lights-out. As long as I stay consistent with what I'm doing and be confident, I'll be all right."