The Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards battled to a final score Wednesday night that looked more like the result of an All-Star Game than an early-season matchup, combining to score 317 points, the most in an NBA game decided by a single point.
The visiting Rockets needed every one of James Harden's 59 points to prevail 159-158, as the Wizards matched the record for the most points scored in an NBA regulation loss. The Denver Nuggets also scored 158 points in a loss to the Golden State Warriors on Nov. 2, 1990.
"I didn't know we were going to have to score about 160 points to win, but whatever it takes, it took," Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said. "A lot of great individual performances. They played unbelievable. They didn't miss anything. We just let down a little bit, and they made everything."
The previous record for combined points in a game decided by a single point was 311 between the Chicago Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers in 1984. Houston set a franchise record for points Wednesday night, and Washington's 158 was the second most in franchise history. The Wizards' effective field goal percentage of .736 was the highest in a loss since the shot-clock era began in 1954-55, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
"We were one play from winning an exciting game," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said.
It was the third game in the past 25 seasons in which each team scored at least 150 points, joining the Bulls' 168-161 victory over the Atlanta Hawks this past March and the Phoenix Suns' 161-157 win over the then-New Jersey Nets in December 2006.
The Rockets and Wizards combined to score 153 points in the first half, the highest-scoring half in a game this young season.
Harden made one of two free throws with 2.4 seconds to play to give the Rockets the victory. He was 18-of-32 from the field, 6-of-14 from 3-point range and 17-of-18 from the free throw line. He also had nine assists in 37 minutes. He now has a 50-point game in five consecutive seasons, tied for the second-longest streak in NBA history, with 19 total in his career.
"The only way we'll get to where we want to go is our defensive efforts, and it has to be consistent," Harden said. "Right now we're not consistent, and that's why we go through tough times like that. That's what the course of the year is for. We just try and build those habits and continue to keep building."
Teammate Russell Westbrook had his second triple-double of the season with 17 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. Harden and Westbrook are the first pair of teammates to combine for a 55-point outing and a triple-double in the same game since Reggie Miller (57 points) and Pooh Richardson in 1992, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Harden and Westbrook scored or assisted on 128 of the Rockets' 159 points.
For the Wizards, Bradley Beal scored 46 points, including hitting three throws with 8.1 seconds left to tie the score at 158. His performance made it the second instance in NBA history of three different players having 55-plus points, 45-plus points and a triple-double in a single game, per Elias Sports Bureau research. In December 1961, Wilt Chamberlain had 78 points, Elgin Baylor had 63 points and Jerry West had a triple-double in the Lakers' 151-147 win over the Philadelphia Warriors.
"I hate moral victories," Beal said. "But it's always a good feeling knowing that when we lose, it's always one or two things we can fix."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.