James Harden set a new career-high 51 points during Houston's 115-111 home victory over Sacramento on Wednesday, becoming the first player in Rockets franchise history to top 50 points twice in the same season.
The three-time All-Star shooting guard and MVP candidate surpassed his previous career-high of 50 points, which he set less than two weeks ago during a March 19 win over the Nuggets. Harden joins Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving as the only players with multiple 50+ point efforts this season, and he leads the league with nine 40-plus point performances in 2014-15.
All told, NBA players have topped the 50-point mark seven times this season: Irving (57 and 55), Harden (51 and 50), Warriors guards Klay Thompson (52) and Stephen Curry (51) and Timberwolves guard Mo Williams (52).
[daily_cut.NBA] Harden, who entered the game as the NBA's second-leading scorer at 27.2 points per game, enjoyed a much better shooting night than his previous 50-point effort. Against the Kings, Harden shot 16-for-25 overall, 8-for-9 from deep and 11-for-13 from the foul line. His two free-throw misses came in the game's closing seconds and could have pushed his point total to 53.
"Those two free throws are still in my head," he told Root Sports during a postgame interview, before adding that Houston enjoyed a "great effort for four quarters."
Here's a look at how Harden's shot chart from Wednesday (left) compares to his shot chart from his 50-point outing against the Nuggets (right), which was highlighted by an NBA season-high 22 made free throws.
Trevor Ariza added 22 points, three rebounds and two assists for Houston.
DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings with 24 points, 21 rebounds, 10 assists, six blocks and three steals. Omri Casspi added 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Houston improved to 51-24 as it continues to compete for the West's No. 2 seed. Sacramento fell to 26-48.