Harden has scored at least 30 points in 31 consecutive games, tying Chamberlain for the second-longest such streak in NBA history behind the Hall of Fame center’s 65-game run. The Rockets are 21-10 during Harden’s streak despite Houston’s other stars — guard Chris Paul and center Clint Capela — missing extended time due to injuries.
“The scoring streak is obviously amazing, but it’s something that I just had to do because of our situation,” Harden said in a sit-down interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “We had all the injuries and guys in and out of the lineup and things like that. So I think the streak just started happening, and now it’s like something to talk about.
“But it’s not something that I’m really honestly focused on. That’s something I have to do in order to give us a chance to win the game.”
Harden is averaging 41.5 points on 27.3 field goal attempts during his streak. His burden in the Rockets’ offense became bigger than ever with the 33-year-old Paul missing 18 games due to a strained hamstring and chipping off rust in eight games since returning. Capela, the primary beneficiary of Harden’s passing wizardry, has missed the last 15 games due to a right thumb injury and could return as soon as Thursday against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Harden acknowledged that it’s sometimes difficult to block out criticism of his isolation-intensive playing style, particularly when it comes from former players.
“Yeah, I hear it. It’s hard not to hear it — especially nowadays,” Harden told Nichols. “You have social media. You have fans that are reading what people saying and ask me about it…
“I try my best to block [criticism] out, but it’s kind of hard, you know? Especially when it’s coming from like ex-NBA players, you know? So it makes it more difficult, but obviously everybody’s entitled to their own opinion.”
Harden recently agreed with Kobe Bryant when the Lakers legend said, “I don’t think that style of basketball is ever going to win championships,” during an ESPN appearance.
Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, appearing on ESPN’s The Jump, recently referred to Harden’s run as “not even attractive basketball” because he dribbles and dominates the ball so much.
Fellow former MVP Stephen Curry, while wearing a microphone for NBA TV, revealed in a conversation during Saturday’s All-Star practice that Harden adamantly declared that he’d like to share the ball more.
“It’s interesting because I was talking to James in the back, obviously complimented him on what he’s done,” Curry said while chatting with Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer. “The first thing he said was like, ‘Yeah, this is fun, but I wanna play different [than] like playing by myself, whatever, heroball.’ But like the people want him to play like that in a system where they can actually play beautiful basketball with guys that know how to play.”