James Harden Brooklyn Nets
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

James Harden scored a career-high 61 points as the Houston Rockets secure a thrilling victory against the New York Knicks in MSG.

Geoffrey Campbell

Much of the talk surrounding the New York Knicks has been about who will still be on the roster after the trade deadline. The Knicks have developed former lottery picks like Noah Vonleh and Emmanuel Mudiay into attractive trade assets. Second-year guard Frank Ntilikina has also heard his name in the trade rumor mill.

Unfortunately, the news on the court hasn’t been much better.

The Knicks came into the Wednesday night’s game on a six-game losing streak with only one win in their last 10 games. On the other hand, James Harden, prior to his lone visit to Madison Square Garden, said that he wanted to have a signature game at the Garden.

Yet, in the first half that moment belonged to Allonzo Trier and his teammates. Trier, after having a brief spat with Tim Hardaway Jr., returned to early-season form, scoring 15 points, dazzling the fans with his handle and step-back shots. Hardaway Jr. led all Knicks with 18 points.

The Rockets were completely dependent on Harden and Eric Gordon, who scored 44 of their 54 first-half points. But despite Harden’s offensive onslaught, the Rockets ended the first half down by five.

In the second half, Harden’s brilliance was on full display. It might’ve taken three quarters for the reigning MVP to get his first assist, but his scoring touch needed no introduction. At one point, the Rockets, once down as many as 13 points in the first half, built a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter.

But credit the Knicks. Head coach David Fizdale sent out a “Fiz kids” lineup consisting of Ntilikina, Damyean Dotson, Mitchell Robinson, Trier, and Vonleh. This group led the charge and made a comeback. Trier finished the game with a team-high 31 points including a huge drive to the hoop to put the Knicks up by one late in the game. But in the end, it was too much Harden.

The beard finished with 61 points, just one shy of Carmelo Anthony’s Garden record set in 2014. Funny enough, the Rockets biggest bucket came from Gordon, who hit the dagger three to put the Rockets up by two. Gordon finished with 20 points.

The Knicks will look to snap their seven-game losing streak on Friday night when they took on their crosstown rivals—the streaking Brooklyn Nets.

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