NEW ORLEANS - James Harden is on a run the NBA hasn’t seen since Oscar Robertson.
Harden had 41 points and six assists to become the first player since the Hall of Fame guard to record at least 35 points and five assists in seven consecutive games, and the Houston Rockets beat the New Orleans Pelicans 108-104 on Saturday night.
“That’s what I play for,” Harden said when asked about being compared to the Big O. “That’s what you play the game of basketball for, to be mentioned in the name with the greats. Obviously, I have a long way to go, but that’s what I put my jersey on for, that’s what I lace my shoes up for, to go out there and be the best that I can be and when it’s all said and done, be mentioned as one of the best basketball players to ever touch a basketball.”
Harden had 26 points in the first half and reached 40 for the third straight game. He was 7-for-16 from 3-point range and made all 14 free throws. He regularly juked Pelican defenders off their feet to draw fouls, including two fouls from behind the arc for another easy six points.
“I’ve said it a thousand times — and I don’t think I’m wrong because I get to watch it every night — but you don’t get better than what he does offensively,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “No one’s better. Then he’s also coming up with steals and rebounds. I mean, he does a lot. I think people sometimes are just trying to look to find holes in his game — and I think everybody has a little something. He doesn’t make every shot.”
Anthony Davis looked sluggish a night after scoring a season-high 48 points in a victory over Dallas, taking only five shots in the first half and finishing with 22 points. Julius Randle led the Pelicans with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Houston led 77-76 after three and scored the first seven points of the fourth period, five coming from Danuel House Jr. on a reverse layup and an open 3-pointer. The Rockets extended their lead to 101-86 with 5:57 left, but the Pelicans went on a 13-2 run, with Davis scoring six, to cut the deficit to 103-99.
With the Rockets leading 104-101 with 12.6 seconds left, P.J. Tucker, a 56 percent free throw shooter, made both foul shots to ice the victory.
Harden torched the Pelicans for 17 points in the first quarter and added nine more in the second as Houston took a 53-50 halftime lead.
Harden’s 26 first-half points were more than half of the Rockets’ scoring. The next closest teammate in scoring was Austin Rivers with eight.
Nuggets 122, Suns 118
In Phoenix, Jamal Murray scored 46 points and made a career-high nine 3-pointers to carry Western Conference-leading Denver over the Suns.
Murray was 16 for 24 from the field with the second-most points he’s scored in a game this season. He scored 31 a night earlier in a win over San Antonio.
Nikola Jokic added 23 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for Denver, while Malik Beasley came off the bench to hit a career-high five 3-pointers for his 15 points.
Rookie Deandre Ayton scored a season-high 33 points and added 14 rebounds for the Suns. Ayton made 12-of-13 shots in the second quarter for 24 points, the highest-scoring quarter by a Suns rookie and sixth-highest overall in franchise history.
Wizards 130, Hornets 126
In Washington, Trevor Ariza scored 24 points and was one of seven Washington players in double figures as the Wizards beat Charlotte amid news five-time All-Star guard John Wall will have season-ending surgery.
Thomas Bryant added 21 points and 10 rebounds and Ariza had nine assists and seven rebounds for Washington, which won for the third time in 12 games.
The Wizards announced Saturday that Wall would undergo surgery to address bone spurs in his left heel and miss at least six months.
Kemba Walker scored 24 of his 47 points in the fourth quarter and nearly lifted Charlotte to a remarkable comeback when his 3-pointer cut the lead to a point with 1.9 seconds to play.
Warriors 115, Trail Blazers 105
In Portland, Klay Thompson scored 32 points, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant each had 25 and Golden State avenged a loss from earlier this week to beat the Trail Blazers.
Golden State, stinging from a 110-109 home loss to the Blazers on Thursday, outscored Portland in each of the first three quarters to avoid its second three-game losing streak of the season.
Damian Lillard made six 3-pointers and scored 40 points for Portland. It was the fifth time this season Lillard, who made the go-ahead 3-pointer in the victory at Oracle Arena, has scored at least 40 points.
Spurs 122, Clippers 111
In Los Angeles, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 38 points and San Antonio beat the Clippers.
DeMar DeRozan had 25 points, 13 rebounds and six assists for the Spurs, who won for the fifth time in their past seven games. Rudy Gay had 12 points, and San Antonio’s starters combined for 97 points with all five in double figures.
Danilo Gallinari had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Clippers, who had won three straight at home. Montrezl Harrell scored 21 points and Lou Williams had 16 points and seven assists off the bench.
Celtics 112, Grizzlies 103
In Memphis, Kyrie Irving had 26 points and 13 assists, Al Horford added 18 points, including a pair of key 3-pointers in the closing 1:32, and Boston rallied for a victory over Memphis.
Marcus Morris scored 22 points for Boston, and Gordon Hayward had 14 off the bench.
Mike Conley led Memphis with 26 points, while Dillon Brooks added 19. Jaren Jackson Jr and Marc Gasol finished with 15 points apiece.
Bucks 129, Nets 115
In Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, helping to turn away Brooklyn’s attempt to rally from a 23-point deficit early in the fourth quarter, and Milwaukee beat the undermanned Nets.
Khris Middleton scored 29 points despite a quad injury, while Brook Lopez added 24 on 7-of-15 shooting from the 3-point arc.
Milwaukee shot 49 percent from the field, including 21 of 51 (41 percent) from the 3-point line to extend their NBA-best record to 25-10. The Bucks have won three straight and seven of eight.
Shabazz Napier tied his career high with 32 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field and 10 of 12 from the foul line. Kenneth Faried had 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Jazz 129, Knicks 97
In Salt Lake City, Rudy Gobert had 25 points and 16 rebounds as Utah beat New York.
Dante Exum scored 13 points and had a career-high 13 assists in his first start of the season. Exum filled in for Ricky Rubio, who sat out with lower back and left knee contusions.
Donovan Mitchell added 15 points and Kyle Korver chipped in 15 off the bench for the Jazz, who won for the sixth time in seven home games.
The Jazz outscored New York 70-26 in the paint, matching a franchise record for points in the paint, and finished with a 60-35 rebounding advantage.
Hawks 111, Cavaliers 108
In Atlanta, Trae Young and Vince Carter each scored 21 points, John Collins added 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Atlanta beat Cleveland.
Atlanta, enjoying a rare run of success in its first season of rebuilding under new coach Lloyd Pierce, has won five of six. At 11-24, the Hawks have the fourth-worst mark in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve done better recently compared to Cleveland, which dropped its sixth in a row.
Cedi Osman finished with 22 points, and Larry Nance Jr. and Collin Sexton each had 18 for the Cavs. Cleveland fell to 8-29, worst in the NBA.