PHOENIX, Ariz. – Arizona State alum James Harden sure enjoy playing against the Phoenix Suns. In the Suns last game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden scored a career-high 30 points in a 115-107 win on March 7th.
Harden topped his last performance on Wednesday night, scoring a new career-high 40 points and leading the Thunder to a 109-97 win. Harden became the first player in the NBA to score 40 point off the bench this season.
“It’s good when you get on a roll like that,” Harden said on his big night. The former Sun Devil was 12-for-17 from the field and a perfect 11-for-11 at the free throw line. “It was special, family, coaches, friends…it was fun. I just wanted to be aggressive. We wanted to bounce back and try to spark some energy off the bench.”
Phoenix jumped out to any early 21-10 lead, but Steve Nash picked up his second foul with 5:03 left in the first quarter. The Thunder went on a 19-4 run to end the quarter. The Suns were able to regain the lead midway through the second quarter, but that when Harden took over, sparking a 17-5 run to end the half.
“Obviously James harden just had a great game and played extremely well,” Alvin Gentry said. “We stayed in the game but we could never really get over that hump. I just didn’t think we had presence offensively or defensively with our bigs.”
The loss put the Suns a half game behind the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference. The Jazz blew out the Portland Trail Blazers 112-91. Phoenix still holds a tiebreaker over Houston after the Rockets lost to Dallas Mavericks 117-100 on Wednesday. While the Denver Nuggets remain two games ahead of the Suns after losing to the Los Angeles Clippers 104-98.
“We’ve got to just go for broke right now,” Steve Nash said. “We’ve got nothing to lose. I mean we put ourselves in a position to get in the playoffs.”
The Suns are back in action on Thursday night against the Clippers. Gentry said before the game that Grant Hill could make his return to the lineup. Hill has missed the past two games with a knee injury.