James Harden reaches 30 points for 20th consecutive game

PHILADELPHIA -- Houston Rockets guard James Harden said being in the same conversation as Wilt Chamberlain is a "credit to the work that I put in" after scoring at least 30 points for the 20th consecutive game Monday night in a 121-93 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

"Wilt was doing some obviously unbelievable things and numbers that nobody will ever catch," said Harden, who finished with 37 points despite sitting the entire fourth quarter as the Rockets were run out of Wells Fargo Center. "Just to be in the same conversation as those guys is just credit to the work I put in. That's what you play this game for, to be listed with those guys, those top players.

"Obviously, I got a long way to go, but this is a pretty cool beginning."

Harden joined Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to have at least 20 straight games with 30 points or more, adding to the incandescent stretch of play he has put together since the middle of December. The last time he failed to score 30 points in a game was when he tallied 29 against the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 11, and he has scored exactly 200 points in his past four games -- an achievement that has been done only six times in the past 50 seasons (four times by Kobe Bryant and twice by Harden).

Making Harden's play even more remarkable is that none of those points has come via an assist.

"I mean, he's incredible, he really is," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I can't tell you, I've run out of words ... my vocabulary's not that extensive.

"I think if the game would've been close, he would've had 50 or 60 tonight. And that's just how he is. He's incredible ... I don't see any end in sight.

"I know there will be, but I don't see it happening."

Still, Harden's continued excellence was about the only positive to come out of a horrendous performance by Houston as a whole, as the Rockets other than Harden went a combined 19-for-60 overall and 5-for-29 from 3-point range -- numbers that look even worse when limited to the first three quarters (10-for-40 and 2-for-19, respectively).

The only Rocket to have more than two made baskets through the first three quarters was Kenneth Faried -- who signed with the team only a couple of hours before tipoff after he cleared waivers following his reaching a buyout agreement with the Brooklyn Nets over the weekend.

"We just couldn't seem to get our energy," Harden said. "We tried to go smaller in that second half. We missed some shots, turned the ball over a few times, and they capitalized."

After trailing by 15 at halftime, Houston missed its first 10 shots of the second quarter, allowing Philadelphia -- which was playing without Jimmy Butler, who sat with a right wrist sprain -- to blow the game open.

Harden, though, pointed to the end of the second quarter, when he had issues with Sixers center Joel Embiid and forward Corey Brewer, as the turning point in the game.

"Late in that second quarter, man, we let the game get out of hand," Harden said. "Referees let the game get out of hand. It's kind of hard to come back from a 15-point deficit -- especially on the road against a good team.

"There were a couple questionable calls that they got away with that changed the game, especially [when] we're already outnumbered a little bit. We are trying to figure out a way to win the game, and I let it get out of hand. But, like I said, we'll figure it out."

Harden first had issues with Brewer, who signed only a 10-day contract with the Sixers last week and was starting in Butler's place. Brewer, who finished with 11 points, 3 rebounds, an assist, 2 steals and 2 blocks in 32 minutes, attempted to goad Harden into an offensive foul early in the first half, falling to the ground after drawing contact only to not get a whistle.

He succeeded at the end of the half, though, leaning up against Harden before the league's reigning Most Valuable Player gave him a shove out of the way.

"I was happy," Brewer said with a smile of getting the start. "I get to play basketball. I was sitting at home with my kid. I've been playing superheroes every day, so I was really happy to get to play basketball.

"I'm a competitor. I love when I get a chance to have a matchup like James Harden. It's great. Let's go."

Harden and Embiid, meanwhile, got into it with 38.7 seconds left in the half, resulting in both of them picking up technicals on the play.

"I was just walking back to my basket, and I think he pushed my leg," Embiid said. "Naturally, I'm going to react, and I did, and we both got technical fouls and we move on. It's nothing going on. It was just, to me, I'm having fun. I'm always having fun."

In the spirit of having fun, Embiid couldn't help but take another swipe at Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, with whom he got into it late in the fourth quarter of the Sixers' 117-115 loss Saturday in what became the latest chapter of their ongoing rivalry.

"A lot of guys take it seriously," Embiid said with a smile, "especially when it comes to that ... we just had one guy, last game, who was acting crazy.

"But it's fun to me. I love it."

The Rockets, who came back from a 20-point second-half deficit to win in overtime Saturday against the Los Angeles Lakers, admitted that they are weary from being short-handed in recent weeks thanks to injuries. Faried, for example, played 23 minutes Monday night -- after playing just 118 all season with the Brooklyn Nets before being waived.

Houston similarly threw Austin Rivers into the fire after he had secured a buyout with the Phoenix Suns following a trade from the Washington Wizards, as the Rockets have been without Chris Paul for over a month and just lost Clint Capela for four to six weeks because of thumb surgery. They also recently lost starter Danuel House Jr. when House had to go to the NBA's G League after he and the team couldn't agree on a contract once he had exhausted his allotment of days on a two-way contract.

All of that has required Harden to carry a ridiculous burden -- which he has done brilliantly, allowing Houston to leap from outside the West's playoff picture into a tie for fifth place after Monday night's loss. Any concerns about Harden running out of gas, though, are of no concern to him.

Although Paul's return seems on the horizon, Harden is prepared to keep assaulting the league's record books for as long as it'll take for Houston to survive until Paul and Capela can get back in the lineup.

"No, because I know that, as long as I make sure we can keep our head above water, once those guys get back, my minutes will go down and we will win a lot easier," Harden said.

"But, until then, I've got to do what I've got to do."