JAMES HARDEN shook off a hard fall and fatigue to lead the Houston Rockets to a 109-105 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.
He scored 40 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and dished out 10 assists for his 19th triple-double of the season and second in 24 hours.
That’s 81 points, 25 boards and 21 assists in two nights.
“Drained?” Harden asked, parroting the reporter’s question. “What’s that?”
“I’m just happy we won (coming) off a loss,” at New Orleans, Harden said.
The Nuggets held Houston to 5-of-24 shooting from 3-point range but missed too many layups and free throws as their lead over hard-charging Portland for the final playoff spot in the West was sliced to 1 1/2 games.
“We missed 18 layups tonight,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “So we could easily have won the game if we made our free throws and finished around the basket.”
That last point surely will hit home with Denver guard Will Barton, who went 2 for 13 from the floor and made just one of nine 3-point attempts.
With his team trailing 107-105, Barton missed a 3-pointer and a layup in the final 30 seconds.
After Barton’s last errant 3-point try, Harden missed at the other end and Nikola Jokic, who got into early foul trouble, corralled the rebound. But Barton missed a runner that would have tied it with about five seconds left, and Harden drew a foul. He sank both free throws to reach 40 points for the second time in two nights.
“They made shots and we didn’t,” Jokic said. “They played really good during that last stretch and we didn’t make shots and that’s it.”
Harden scored 18 points in the third quarter, including Houston’s final 16 of the period. He capped the run with a buzzer-beating 3 that gave the Rockets an 80-74 lead.