The Houston Rockets came out on top 158-111 over the visiting Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night at the Toyota Center.
It marked Houston's largest margin of victory and Atlanta's second-largest deficit of defeat this season, having lost to the Los Angeles Clippers by 49 points on Nov. 16.
The Hawks never stood a chance as the Rockets raced to a 38-21 lead by the end of the first quarter, and it just got worse for Atlanta from there.
The Rockets were led by James Harden's season-high 60 points and shot 58.4 percent from the field (49.0 percent from three) as a team. The damage would have been worse, but Houston opted not to play Harden or Russell Westbrook in the fourth quarter.
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The Hawks have lost 10 consecutive contests and fell to 4-16, while the Rockets kept pace in a competitive Western Conference at 13-6.
HOU G James Harden: 60 points, 3 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, 1 block
HOU G Russell Westbrook: 15 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists
HOU G Ben McLemore: 24 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
HOU F PJ Tucker: 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists
ATL G Trae Young: 37 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists
ATL F >De'Andre Hunter: 14 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
ATL F Jabari Parker: 11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
James Harden Routs Atlanta's 26th-Ranked Defense
Harden has now scored at least 30 points in 15 of 19 games this season, and the 30-year-old All-Star hit the 30-point mark before halftime against the Hawks:
The Hawks double-teamed Harden as soon as he crossed half court throughout the evening, but it made no difference. Few defenses have been able to contain Harden, who entered Saturday as the NBA's leading scorer at 37.7 points per game.
In the calendar year 2019, eight of the 10 highest-scoring games in the league belong to Harden:
The 2017-18 NBA MVP had drained eight threes and secured a 50-burger at the midway point of the third quarter before finishing the period with 60 points—a new season high—against the Hawks. He finished one short of his season-high mark of nine threes in a game, but it's safe to presume that was only because he sat the fourth quarter.
The Beard's prolific performance more than made up for the fact that Westbrook scored 15 points, his second-lowest scoring game this season. Harden was able to keep Westbrook involved, though:
Harden did what an all-time scorer is supposed to do against subpar competition. But it's worth noting that on Nov. 20 against the Denver Nuggets—the league's top-rated defense, per NBA.com—Harden still managed to score 27 points on 50 percent shooting.
With Westbrook now in the fold, it's hard to say that Houston will ultimately live and die by Harden's scoring. However, the Rockets are 1-3 this year when Harden scores fewer than 30 points.
The Hawks will head back to Atlanta and host the 4-16 Golden State Warriors on Monday night.
The Rockets will stay in Texas but travel to 7-13 San Antonio to face the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night.