James Harden posted 49 points on 14-of-20 shooting (18-of-21 from the free-throw line) as the Houston Rockets overcame a late fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Dallas Mavericks in overtime 153-149.
Harden, who hit his first 16 free throws, couldn't have timed his first miss any better.
He went to the line with Houston down 139-136 with 3.9 seconds remaining and missed the second attempt after hitting the first, but Robert Covington put home a tip-in to tie the game at 139.
A Luka Doncic three-point attempt in response was off the mark, and the game headed to OT.
Once there, Harden scored seven of the Rockets' 14 points to propel Houston to victory. His efforts were complemented by backcourt mate Russell Westbrook's 31-point, 11-rebound, eight-assist evening.
Dallas lost despite scoring 85 first-half points. Kristaps Porzingis scored a season-high 39 points with 16 rebounds, and Luka Doncic added a 28-point triple-double. Trey Burke scored 31 off the bench and hit 8-of-10 three-pointers.
Houston is now 41-24 after winning its opening game in the 2019-20 season restart, which is taking place at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida, following a four-and-a-half-month suspension of play due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mavs fell to 40-28.
Rockets G James Harden: 49 PTS, 9 REB, 8 AST
Rockets G Russell Westbrook: 31 PTS, 11 REB, 8 AST
Rockets F Danuel House Jr.: 20 PTS, 5 REB
Mavericks G Luka Doncic: 28 PTS, 13 REB, 10 AST
Mavericks F/C Kristaps Porzingis: 39 PTS, 16 REB
Mavericks G Trey Burke: 31 PTS, 6 AST
Mavericks G/F Tim Hardaway Jr: 24 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST
Harden Can Do No Wrong in Masterful Performance
James Harden is going to be a problem in Orlando.
The 2017-18 NBA MVP arguably looked better Friday than at any portion prior to the season restart. He was clearly a cut above everyone else on the court and looks as though he's been staying in game shape during the entire four-and-a-half-month suspension.
Load management and minutes restrictions did not occur for Harden, and the rest of the Rockets' starters all played at least 40 minutes, with The Beard on the court for 43.
He looked as good in the beginning portion of those 43 minutes as he did by game's end, notably knocking down an early stepback three from the 28-foot line:
Harden also passed Rockets legend Calvin Murphy for second on the team's all-time scoring list behind only Hall of Fame big man Hakeem Olajuwon.
He ended up scoring 23 first-quarter points, and the Rockets needed them all with Dallas hot itself, leading to a 42-all tie after one:
Harden scored in a litany of ways, driving to the paint for quick buckets or drawn fouls, hitting floaters or knocking down more threes:
Those efforts helped the Rockets stay within range of the Mavs, who led by double digits after the second and third quarters.
But Houston finally started chipping away at the edge late in the fourth, with this long-range Harden three a big reason why:
In overtime, the Rockets used that momentum to finish the job, thanks in part to this Harden three-point play:
Houston is near-impossible to beat when Harden and Westbrook are firing on all cylinders like they were Friday. Whether they can do that over the course of the playoffs will be determined, but the Rockets clearly made a statement with their phenomenal offensive performance, and Harden was the root cause of that effort.
Rockets and Mavs Punctuate High-Scoring, Exciting NBA Restart
The NBA has held eight games during its restart portion. Two have gone to overtime, and two others have gone down to the last regulation possession. A fifth matchup between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks fit neither bill, but it was a classic battle in its own right with the two teams separated by three points until the final minute.
High-scoring affairs have been common, but the Mavs and Rockets took it to another level with a frenetic pace and hot shooting from both sides.
Houston went 52-of-101 from the field, with Harden making 70 percent of his shots, Danuel House Jr. knocking down half of his 12 three-point attempts and Ben McLemore hitting all four of his long-range tries.
Somehow, the Rockets only turned the ball over nine times despite the rapid pace and extra session.
On the other hand, Dallas featured Trey Burke knocking down eight of 10 three-pointers, Porzingis making half of his 26 field goal attempts, and Tim Hardaway Jr. hitting 5-of-8 from three-point range.
In the end, the two teams combined for 302 points, 102 made field goals and 58 free throws. Any concerns about the Rockets or Mavs needing to shake off rust or maintain stamina following the lengthy league suspension were quickly put away with the two teams running up and down the court to deliver what was arguably the season's most entertaining game.
The Mavs and Rockets are one-two in the league in offensive efficiency, per ESPN.com, so the performance wasn't that much of a surprise.
But the fact that scoring has apparently exploded around the league is a bit eyebrow-raising, and if the game is going to take on a more offensive slant in Florida, then that will certainly benefit Dallas and Houston as each team looks to make a deep playoff run.
Both teams will play next on Sunday.
The Rockets will face the Milwaukee Bucks at 8:30 p.m. ET, and the Mavs will play the Phoenix Suns on Sunday at 9 p.m.