HOUSTON — In a season where Houston is singularly focused on winning its first championship since taking two straight in 1994 and 1995, the Rockets paused for a moment to savor the accomplishment of reaching 60 wins for the first time in franchise history by downing the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night.
“It’s hard and it’s a pretty special season to get 60,” coach Mike D’Antoni said.
James Harden had a triple-double with 18 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in three quarters and the Rockets beat the Hawks 118-99.
“It’s pretty cool to get 60 wins … it’s just a good feeling,” Harden said. “That means you’re doing something right, the chemistry is there, you’re sharing the ball, being unselfish and playing for each other.”
It was the second straight game where the Rockets never trailed after a rout of New Orleans on Saturday night that set a franchise record for wins in a season.
The NBA-leading Rockets have won nine straight and became the 18th team in NBA history to reach 60 wins in the 74th game of the season.
“Sixty — you very rarely see it, only one or two teams a year do it,” Eric Gordon said. “So it’s a special year. But the crazy part about it is you still have eight games to go.”
Houston was up by 24 at halftime and the Hawks cut into the lead with a solid third quarter, but never really threatened, allowing Harden to watch the final quarter from the bench for the second night in a row.
Taurean Prince scored 28 and Isaiah Taylor had 26 for the Hawks, who have lost three in a row and nine of their last 10.
“They test us in every way,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “The good thing is the way we played the second half, I thought we got better.”
Harden, who had 12 assists by halftime, had his fourth triple-double this season and the 35th of his career.
Gerald Green had 25 points, and Gordon added 22 for the Rockets with Chris Paul out for the third straight game with a sore left hamstring.
Atlanta got within 16 after four straight points by Taylor midway through the fourth, but Green hit a 3-pointer seconds later to push Houston’s lead to 108-89.
The Rockets led 25 after a 3-pointer by Gordon early in the third quarter when the Hawks went on a 7-2 run to cut the lead to 74-54 with about 8 1/2 minutes left in the period.
The Hawks used a 15-6 spurt later in the third to get within 85-71 with about two minutes remaining in the quarter. Prince had five points in that span and capped the run with a 3-pointer.
But Houston used a 9-3 run to wrap up the quarter and take a 94-74 lead into the fourth quarter. Harden scored four points in that stretch and found Green for a 3-pointer to cap it.
The Rockets raced out to an 11-5 lead early and were up 33-20 at the end of the first quarter.
Houston led by 10 early in the second quarter before scoring the next 11 points, with eight from Green, to make it 44-23 eight minutes before halftime.
The Rockets didn’t let up after that, leading 69-45 at halftime.
Hawks: Dennis Schroder missed the game with a sprained right ankle. … John Collins finished with 10 rebounds. … DeAndre’ Bembry sat out with an abdominal strain.
Rockets: Ryan Anderson got a night off to rest. … Coach Mike D’Antoni said Paul could have played if it were the playoffs and that he should return on Tuesday. … With 20 3-pointers on Sunday, the Rockets have made 15 or more in five of their last six games.
Green had his best game since scoring 29 and 27 points in his first two games after signing with Houston as a free agent in January. The 32-year-old, who has played for eight teams, said he loves playing for his hometown team and feels lucky to be part of the group.
“I’m just really happy to be here,” he said. “I think this is what you see when somebody is happy to be at a place and they can play however. Of all the teams I’ve played with I’ve never been this happy before.”
THEY SAID IT
Trevor Ariza on Houston maintaining their intensity despite playing non-contending teams the past two games: “That’s the type of thing I think championship teams do.”
Hawks: At Minnesota on Wednesday night.
Rockets: Host Chicago on Tuesday night.