James Harden is going hard for his second consecutive MVP award.
On the second night of a back-to-back, the reigning league MVP dropped 57 points in Memphis (27 points in the fourth quarter and overtime), including nine made threes, going 12-of-12 from the free-throw line.
Playing 46 minutes of a possible 53, the Beard also recorded eight assists, seven rebounds, two steals, and two blocks as the Grizzlies squeezed out a 126-125 win at home.
Scoring the last eight points for the Rockets, Harden was determined to lead his team to victory but an untimely foul by Clint Capela allowed Jonas Valanciunas to seal the game at the free-throw line.
MORE: Valanciunas sink clutch FT's; registers career-high in win
This is Harden's seventh 50-point game of the season (leads the league), putting him alongside some special all-time players to have done the same.
Players with at least seven 50-point games in a season:- StatMuse (@statmuse) March 21, 2019
Wilt Chamberlain (5x)
📊 https://t.co/c6WndlzUd1 pic.twitter.com/TE5mbTVaIJ
Harden's been racking up the scoring records ever since he caught fire in mid-December, amidst the team's early struggles (11-14 through first 25 games). This spectacular performance extends his streak to seven-straight months with at least one 50-point game.
In the Rockets' win vs. the Hawks on Wednesday, with 31 points, Harden had become the only player ever to score 30+ points against every opponent in the league.
🚀 @JHarden13 becomes the first player in @NBAhistory to score 30+ points against all 29 opponents in the same season! #Rockets pic.twitter.com/czZFuYGULH- NBA (@NBA) March 20, 2019
Earlier in the season, Harden had scored 30+ plus over 32 consecutive games, the second longest streak after Wilt Chamberlain's 65-game run in the 1961/62 season.
With a depleted roster for the night, missing Eric Gordon (rest) and Kenneth Faried (knee), Harden's herculean effort went in vain and the loss could come back to bite. The fourth-seed Portland Trail Blazers closed the gap to 0.5 of a game of the Rockets in the Western Conference standings, following their win over the Dallas Mavericks.