After carrying the Rockets longer than he'd ever been asked to carry a team, James Harden could carry them no more.
He'd closed out close games and finished comebacks. He'd scored at least 20 points in 22 consecutive games, 20 games longer than the longest streak in his first three seasons. He had led them in scoring in 20 consecutive games in which he played, three games longer than the next longest streak in the NBA this season.
But the Rockets continued to make the hills tougher to climb, with the nightly double-digit deficits now so routine they seem to be on the schedule.
For a second consecutive game, when they turned to Harden to rescue them, he couldn't.
The Rockets made their customary runs, again climbing out of an all-too-common first-half hole to draw to within a bucket. But when the Pacers brushed them aside down the stretch en route to a 105-95 win Friday night, the Rockets had their sixth consecutive loss, the longest losing streak after a five-game or longer winning streak in franchise history.
Harden followed up his 5-of-23 shooting against the Mavericks by going 5-of-19, again failing to make the shots at the rim that previously propelled him to fifth in the NBA in scoring. His streak of 20-point games ended.
With center Omer Asik getting a career-high 22 points, Harden did not lead the Rockets in scoring for the first time in a game in which he played since Dec. 4.
But he did not believe fatigue had anything to do with his recent struggles.
Told Magic Johnson had said at halftime of Wednesday's game that Harden had hit a wall, Harden flat disputed that, but said the Rockets' larger issues have forced them to mount long, difficult and often unlikely comebacks.
Wear and tear showing as Rockets' skid stretches to 6
Houston Chronicle | Jan 19