MILWAUKEE — The Houston Rockets won their 17th game in a row in a 110-99 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night. As usual, it was James Harden setting the tone offensively, scoring 26 points.
Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, Harden and his teammates sliced and diced their way through a young Bucks team that was hopeful of snapping another long winning streak, which it did a couple of years ago to the Golden State Warriors and their 24-game streak.
Each night he steps on the floor during the final stretch run of the season, Harden offers another reminder of just how dominant he has been. He can get to the rim almost at will with an array of moves and then can break an opponent’s heart — and ankles — by knocking down shots from anywhere on the court. Harden delivered 21 points in the first half, creating a hole deep enough that the Bucks could never get all the way out.
What has to scare the rest of the league is just how much confidence the Rockets are playing with on a nightly basis over the past month. They play like a team that knows just how good it is and is intent on proving it each night. The Rockets players’ belief in one another — on both ends of the floor — is noticeable as the group continues to find ways to win. Eric Gordon knocked down some key shots as he finished with 18 points, and the Rockets got a nice lift from their bench, outscoring the Bucks’ bench 40-27.
Rockets’ dynamic duo
With both Chris Paul and James Harden in the lineup this season, the Rockets are 36-3, which equates to 75 wins over a full season.
W-L WIN PCT.
Both play 36-3 .923
Just Harden 11-7 .611
Just Paul 4-3 .571
Chris Paul controlled the pace when needed, chipping in with 16 points and 11 assists, including the backbreaking bucket with 45.1 seconds that ended a last-gasp rally by the Bucks. This marks the second time in Paul’s career one of his teams has rattled off 17 victories in a row. The other time was with the 2012-13 Los Angeles Clippers.
After a sluggish first half in which he scored only eight points, Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 30, but he didn’t get enough help in the waning moments for the Bucks to pull off the upset. The issue for Milwaukee remains the same as it has been for several years: Who is going to help Antetokounmpo when he can’t get things rolling or has to navigate his way through the teeth of an opponent’s defense?
Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe combined for 33 points, but neither is the type of game-changing talent who can take enough weight off Antetokounmpo’s shoulders against a team as talented as the Rockets. The Bucks have lost six of their last seven and sit in a tie for eighth in the Eastern Conference with the Miami Heat.
The Rockets go for their 18th win in a row on Friday night in Toronto against the Raptors.