HOUSTON -- James Harden, nursing a sore shooting shoulder, needed a late scoring flurry Monday night to extend his streak of scoring at least 30 points to 30 consecutive games.
Harden scored 11 points in a 100-second span late in the fourth quarter to finish with 31 in the Houston Rockets' 120-104 win over the Dallas Mavericks. He extended the streak -- which Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has dubbed "The Unguardable Tour" -- by swishing a 30-foot pull-up with 52.9 seconds remaining.
Harden strained his left shoulder during Saturday's loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and got extensive treatment over the past two days, interrupting his normal shooting routine. He struggled with his shot until late in Monday's win, going 9-of-23 from the floor and 6-of-17 from 3-point range.
"I couldn't get the lift that I usually have for my shot, but that's no excuse," Harden said. "I'm just happy we won the game."
Harden joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to have a 30-game, 30-point streak. Chamberlain had such streaks of 65 and 31 games.
Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni admitted that he assumed that Harden's streak would be snapped with a few minutes remaining in the game. But Harden hit step-back jumpers on back-to-back possessions, daggers that extended Houston's lead to 15 points with 1:57 remaining. He made a pair of free throws with 1:18 remaining and hit another 3 off an assist from Chris Paul to extend the streak.
It was the fourth time Harden has scored 10 points in the last three minutes of regulation, the most in the NBA this season. Each has happened since Jan. 19.
"I was worried about winning," said Harden, who also had eight rebounds, seven assists and five steals. "They were making shots. They were coming back, cut the lead to 10 or nine points, something like that. So I just wanted to get the proper shots. Like I said, they put two on the ball and I got off it a few times, and we got some good opportunities."
Dallas doubled Harden frequently throughout the game to force the ball out of his hands. That happened before Harden's final shot, but Paul made sure to get the ball back to the reigning MVP, well aware that the streak was at stake.
"For sure, for sure," said Paul, who had 17 points and 11 assists. "He's got 28, so yeah, why not? We was up."
The Rockets improved to 21-9 during Harden's streak, climbing from 14th to tied for fourth in the Western Conference standings during that span. Teammates admit that they're enjoying being a part of a historic run, but Harden often steers the discussion back to winning.
For example, Harden said the big smile that broke out on his face after his final shot was because "we sealed the game," not a celebration of his streak being extended.
"At the end of the day, the object is to win games," Paul said. "We never want to compromise a win or anything like that, and I think James has done a great job of that. At the end of the day, the name of the game is to win, and that's what we do."
Harden said he hopes that rest and rehab during the All-Star break will allow him to regain strength in his shoulder. He anticipates that he will still be sore for Wednesday's road game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but sitting out is not a consideration for Harden.
"If he comes to the arena, he's playing," D'Antoni said. "I can't keep him out of practice, much less playing. He loves to play, and he knows his body. He can go through this. He's fine."