James Harden scores 44 points, Rockets beat Suns 118-110

James Harden scored 44 points — his 20th 40-point game of the season — and the Rockets beat Suns 118-110 on Monday night to hand the Suns their season-worst 11th straight loss.

Harden joined Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Rick Barry as the only players with 20 games of at least 40 points in the first 50 of a season.

Harden, who also had eight rebounds and six assists, extended his streak of games with at least 30 points to 27, third-longest in NBA history.

Chris Paul scored 18 and Kenneth Faried had 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Rockets, who were without two starters.

Josh Jackson scored 25 points, Kelly Oubre Jr. 23 and Devin Booker 19 for the Suns. Deandre Ayton added 15 points and 11 boards.

The Suns never led but stayed close through the first half before falling behind by as many as 20 in the third quarter.

Phoenix cut it to single digits on several occasions in the fourth only to be thwarted by a basket from Harden or Paul. Harden scored 14 in the final quarter.

Rockets beat Suns

James Harden Rockets beat Suns

Up by six at halftime, the Rockets opened a big lead in the third quarter. Harden sank a 3-pointer from the corner and Faried dunked a rebound to cap a 13-4 run that put Houston up 84-68. The Rockets boosted the lead to 20 three times in the quarter, the last at 94-74 on Paul’s two free throws with 1:02 left. But Phoenix finished the period on a 6-0 spurt as Oubre’s 3-pointer at the buzzer cut the Rockets’ advantage to 94-80 entering the fourth.

The run reached 10-0 when Phoenix scored the first four of the final quarter, making it 94-84 on Oubre’s dunk with 10:57 to play.

But Harden sank a pair of 3s in an 8-0 run and Houston led 101-88 with 7:05 remaining.

The Suns kept it close in the first half, despite Harden’s 22 points, five assists and five rebounds.

Harden scored inside twice to ignite a 9-2 spurt that put Houston up 50-42 on Paul’s wide-open 3 with 6:03 left in the half. Austin Rivers’ 3 gave Houston its biggest lead of the half, 57-46, with 3:21 left. The Rockets led 63-57 at the break.

Rockets beat Suns TIP-INS

Rockets: Through 50 games, Harden has 658 3-point attempts, seventh-most for an entire season in NBA history. … Houston was without Eric Gordon (right knee soreness) and Clint Capela (right thumb injury). … Five former Suns are on the Rockets’ roster: P.J. Tucker, Gerald Green, Marquese Chriss, Brandon Knight and Danuel House Jr. That’s not counting Rivers, waived by the Suns immediately after he and Oubre came over from Washington in a trade for Trevor Ariza.

Suns: Phoenix again didn’t have T.J. Warren (right ankle soreness) and De’Anthony Melton (right ankle sprain). … The Suns have lost 10 straight at home to Houston. They last beat the Rockets in Phoenix on April 15, 2013.

Nicholas Norman is the founder of Distinct Athlete and one of the preeminent figures in the digital sports industry. Using his extensive background in sports media, he has built Distinct Athlete into one of the largest, most successful independently-owned sports blogs in the country. Nicholas Norman has worked in sports media for over 8 years, beginning with his time as a student at Troy University. His background includes six years working at the Forward Times Newspaper. Nicholas Norman founded DistinctAthlete.com in Jan. 2012.

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