James Harden became one of the league’s most feared scorers when he was traded to the Houston Rockets for the 2012-13 season.
The Los Angeles Clippers seem to know what it takes to neutralize his talents.
Houston seeks a third consecutive victory by avoiding a seventh straight defeat to the visiting Clippers on Wednesday night.
Harden leads the NBA in scoring at 27.3 points per game, and his average of 26.1 over 2 1/2 seasons since being acquired from Oklahoma City is the fourth-best in the league.
He became the first Rocket since Steve Francis in 2001-02 to have multiple triple-doubles in a season after putting up 31 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in Monday’s 113-102 win over Minnesota.
Harden had his 25th 30-point game and tied a career high with four blocks for Houston (38-18), which has won two straight after dropping three of its previous four.
”When I get my teammates confident to shoot their shots and be aggressive and get them in their rhythm, I can get into mine and that makes everything easy,” Harden said.
He often hasn’t been able to find his groove against the Clippers, though. Harden’s average of 17.9 points in seven games against Los Angeles – all losses – is his lowest against any team since joining the Rockets.
He’s shooting 35.5 percent from the field – 5 for 41 from 3-point range – during Houston’s six-game skid against Los Angeles, and has averaged 5.5 turnovers in his last four in the series. Harden hit 5 of 12 from the floor and finished with 16 points in a 102-85 loss Nov. 28 before finishing 3 of 12 in a 110-95 defeat Feb. 11.
The nine-point effort in the last matchup marked his second-lowest point total of the season and came after back-to-back 40-point games.
"James is one of the few guys in the league that you can’t just guard with one person," Clippers guard Chris Paul said. "He’s like (Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Kevin Durant). He can score in so many different ways, so you have to defend him with the entire team."
Los Angeles (37-20) was pleased with its defense Monday, but Paul’s turnover in the final seconds of a one-point game sealed a 90-87 loss to Memphis that snapped the Clippers’ four-game winning streak.
Paul finished with 30 points and 10 assists, but Los Angeles scored its second-fewest points of the season.
”All I could think about was if I was watching at home, this dummy didn’t even get a shot up,” Paul said. ”You play the whole game to get in those situations. You try to thrive in those situations. For that to happen, it’s tough."
The Clippers fell to 4-2 without Blake Griffin, who is out indefinitely following surgery to remove a staph infection.
"Without Blake … we’re going to be more of a jump-shot-shooting team right now," coach Doc Rivers said. "I would’ve liked to drive the ball more."
DeAndre Jordan finished with 15 rebounds, giving him at least that many in five consecutive games – the longest such streak in the NBA this season. He had 20 to go along with 24 points – half of which came on 26 free-throw attempts as the Rockets chose to continually foul the Houston native intentionally – in the last meeting.
The Clippers didn’t get a look at Terrence Jones in either matchup this season. The Rockets forward, who has missed 43 games due to injuries and illness, scored 15 points and grabbed a season-high 15 boards against Minnesota.
"He’s doing everything," Harden said. "That gives us another option on the court."
Los Angeles has won five of the last six meetings in Houston.