Stats to know from Harden's 40-point night

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James Harden scored 40 points for an NBA-leading sixth time on Tuesday at Phoenix.

James Harden has carried the Rockets' offense all season, and that was again the case in Tuesday's 127-118 victory over the Suns.

Harden filled up the box score with 40 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, becoming the third guard in the past 30 seasons to put up that stat line. The other two? Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter.

Most 40-Point Games This Season

Harden scored 40 points on Tuesday for the sixth time this season. No other NBA player has more than four 40-point games (Russell Westbrook has four).

The Rockets' shooting guard reached the 40-point mark for the second consecutive game, with 20 of those points coming in the fourth quarter. Westbrook is the only other player with back-to-back 40-point games this season. Harden joins Tracy McGrady and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only Rockets in the past 20 years to score 40 in consecutive contests.

Playing in the city where he played his college basketball, Harden became the first Rocket to score 40-plus points in a game at Phoenix since Elvin Hayes in February 1970, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Hayes' big game in the desert was so long ago that the Rockets' franchise was based in San Diego.

Harden keeps Rockets humming without Howard

Harden's big game helped the Rockets to their seventh win in nine games. Dwight Howard has played a grand total of 8:29 during that stretch, missing the past eight games altogether.

All season, Harden has picked up his offense when Howard is not on the court. According to NBA.com, Harden averages 29 points per 36 minutes with Howard on the bench and 25 points per 36 with Howard on the court.

Just as important, the Rockets' offense with Harden on the floor does not miss a beat with Howard on the bench. The Rockets average 107.7 points per 100 possessions with both Howard and Harden on the floor and 108.0 points per 100 with Harden on the court but not Howard.

That's a big reason why the Rockets are 14-6 (.700) without Howard this season and 22-10 (.688) with him.

Race for eighth seed tightens up

The Suns lost for the fifth time in six games tonight, loosening their grip on the final playoff spot in the West.

The Thunder and Pelicans now trail the Suns by one game for the West's eighth seed, and the three teams are even in the loss column with 25 defeats.

This is the closest the Thunder have been to one of the top eight spots in the West since they trailed the Suns and Pelicans by a half-game on Dec. 20.

Entering the day, ESPN's Basketball Power Index saw the Thunder as the favorites in the race for eighth in the West, projecting Oklahoma City to have a 61 percent chance to reach the postseason.