Pelicans' Tough Task: Stopping The Unstoppable Harden

James Harden is on a scoring binge that's excessive even by his rare standard.

He has scored 118 points in the Houston Rockets' last two games, following a 57-point performance in an overtime loss at Memphis on Wednesday by matching his career-high with a 61-point outing in a 111-105 home victory against San Antonio on Friday.

"I was just in attack mode all night," Harden said after the win against the Spurs.

Next he'll take aim at the reeling Pelicans in a game Sunday night in New Orleans.

The Pelicans might be discouraged by Rockets swingman Gerald Green's postgame description of how to guard Harden.

"The only person that could probably guard him is the coaches and referees," Green said. "That's it, nobody can stop him. He's just one of those type of players that he's able to get a shot off at any time. He doesn't have any weaknesses."

Harden, the NBA's leading scorer with an average of 36.5 points per game, had 28 of his points against Memphis in the fourth quarter and overtime, and then opened with 27 in the first quarter against the Spurs. That gave him 55 points in 29 minutes.

He finished 19 of 34 from the field, including 9 of 13 on 3-pointers, and made 14 of 17 free throws against the Spurs.

"That tops them all," Rockets guard Eric Gordon said of Harden's performance. "MVP's locked up after today. The level of concentration he had throughout the whole game, it's just special."

The Rockets (46-27) have won 13 of their last 15 games as they try to hold off Portland for the No. 3 playoff seed in the Western Conference.

Harden's consecutive 50-point games were his eighth back-to-back games of 50-plus on the season.

"I don't know how you get any better," Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Whoever was in the gym tonight probably saw something they had never seen before."

The Pelicans (31-43), meanwhile, tried to break up the monotony of the final few games of a disappointing season by going on the road for practice Friday.

When the players reported to the team's training facility, they were instructed to board a bus for what coach Alvin Gentry called "a field trip." They headed across the Mississippi River and wound up at John Ehret High School, the alma mater of point guard Elfrid Payton, whose club-record streak of five consecutive triple-doubles ended in a loss at Orlando on Wednesday.

The idea to hold a light workout in front of selected members of the student body was hatched by Gentry and interim general manager Danny Ferry several days earlier.

"These days are almost like dog days when it comes to practice and we wanted to do something different," Gentry said. "We thought it would be something good to do, especially with the way Elfrid has been playing."

Payton's streak is matched only by Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook, a foursome that Gentry called "a pretty good class."

"It's kind of wild," Payton said. "There are a lot of great names on that list. To even be in the conversation means a lot but I still feel I have a lot to accomplish. I feel like I can get so much better.

"I'm just trying to play at a high level, compete at a high level and help my teammates. I think we were playing well as a team but we just couldn't get it done."

The Pelicans were eliminated from the playoff chase earlier this week, and they have lost seven of their last eight while playing without injured starters Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore.

But two of their most notable wins this season have come against the Rockets, both in Houston. New Orleans had the most eye-opening performance of opening night when it routed the Rockets 131-112, playing a rare game with a healthy roster in what has become an injury-plagued season.

Then the Pelicans beat the Rockets 121-116 on Jan. 29 despite playing without five of their top six scorers. Houston won 108-104 on Dec. 29 in the previous meeting in New Orleans.

--Field Level Media/Copyright © 2019 TTWN Media Networks LLC Photo: Getty Images


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