Harden has averaged 37 points in last 3 games
Just how hot has he been?
Hakeem Olajuwon hot - that's how hot. He's averaged more than 37 points in the last three games to become the first Rocket to score at least 37 points in three straight games since the Hall of Famer did it in 1994-95.
Harden was slowed by foot and ankle problems late last year, but there have been no signs of that lately - welcome news for an inconsistent team dealing with injuries in its first season with Dwight Howard.
Harden, who has hit a season-high 38 in two of those games, is enjoying the roll, but is more concerned about the big picture.
''Most important is us winning and playing the right way,'' Harden said. ''We haven't found a rhythm yet this season ... where everybody is on the same page. So that's the most important thing right now and I'm just trying to be a leader. Whether it's me scoring 37 points or me scoring five or 10 points, as long as we're racking up those wins, that's all that matters.''
Houston has won two in a row and starts a four-game road trip Friday in Atlanta. The Rockets are 23-13 and five games behind Southwest Division leader San Antonio in the standings.
Harden was great last year for Houston in his first season as a starter after serving as Oklahoma City's sixth man on a roster starring Kevin Durant. But the 6-foot-5 guard has really flourished in Year 2, and is fifth in the NBA in scoring at 24.9 points per game.
Howard loves playing with Harden and was in one of his silly moods when he talked about his new teammate on Thursday. He pretended to be psychic and predict what Harden will do next.
''My future says James will have many, many more 30-point games and in the future James will have a 40-point game coming up soon on this East Coast trip,'' Howard said with a smile, holding his hands in a meditation-like pose and looking toward the sky.
Coach Kevin McHale doesn't claim to see the future like his center, but he does know that when Harden is successful it is because he is attacking and not dawdling around.
Harden shook his head when asked about how often McHale reminds him of how he wants him to play.
''He tells me every single day to play downhill,'' Harden said. ''Whether it is grabbing the rebound or transition, get in attack mode and get to that rim and great things are going to happen not just for myself but for my team. So I try to keep that in my head throughout the entire game.''
McHale also likes to remind the other Rockets what they need to do when Harden is playing like this.
''Everybody has got to enjoy a teammate's success,'' McHale said. ''If a guy is rolling, it's your job to give him the ball and enjoy it. Good teams, they really enjoy someone playing well. Bad teams are like: `Why am I not getting the ball.' So you've got to be a team that enjoys people's success.''