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AP photo by Michael Wyke / Houston Rockets guard James Harden drives between Atlanta Hawks forward Bruno Fernando, left, and guard Tyrone Wallace during the third quarter of Saturday's game in Houston.

HOUSTON — James Harden's performance Saturday night was enough to make even those who see him put up gaudy numbers night after night step back and marvel at his work.

Harden scored a season-high 60 points in 31 minutes as the Houston Rockets sent the struggling Atlanta Hawks to their 10th straight loss with a 158-111 romp.

"It's like everything else he does — unbelievable," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said.

Harden came one point shy of matching his career high and franchise record on a night he made eight 3-pointers and 20 free throws. He watched the entire fourth quarter from the bench with Houston up 127-73 at the end of three.

"What he's doing has not been seen," teammate Austin Rivers said. "My man had 60 and didn't play the fourth quarter. Name another player who could do that right now."

It was Harden's fourth 60-point game as an NBA player, tying him with Michael Jordan for third-most in league history, trailing only Kobe Bryant (six) and Wilt Chamberlain (32). Harden is the only active player who has scored 60 points more than once.

As usual, though, he wasn't interested in talking about reaching 60 points while spending an entire quarter on the bench.

"Nope," he said before walking off and repeating the word two more times.

The Rockets were missing starters Clint Capela and Danuel House because of illnesses, but they still had no trouble handling an Atlanta team that hasn't won since Nov. 12 thanks to Harden's huge night.

"We try to do what we have to do against James, which is throw a lot of bodies at him," Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. "Try and put him under duress. He just didn't feel us."

Atlanta was never really in this one, trailing by 20 or more points for most of the game. The flat effort came a night after the Hawks fell by one point in overtime to the Indiana Pacers, a loss in which Atlanta point guard Trae Young tied career highs with 49 points and eight 3-pointers.

Young led the Hawks with 37 points and had five 3-pointers against the Rockets, but it wasn't nearly enough to offset Harden's game.

The Rockets raced to a 14-5 lead and stretched their advantage to 81-52 by halftime behind 31 points from Harden for their third 80-point first half in franchise history.

As good as Harden was in the first two quarters, it was nothing compared to how he dominated in the third. Houston was up 83-56 early in the period before he scored all of the team's points in an 18-3 run that made it 101-59 with seven minutes left in the period.

Harden made three 3-pointers and was fouled on 3-point attempts three other times in that stretch. He finished the game with eight assists, three rebounds, three steals and a block to go along with his points.

After the third quarter, Harden was sitting on the bench with a towel draped over his shoulders when he was shown on the video board with a note that said he was two points shy of setting his career high. Harden looked at the screen, read the note and pointed at it while opening his mouth wide in fake shock as if to say: "I was so close," before smiling broadly.

"Yeah I was playing with the fans a little, but honestly I didn't know," he said. "But we played a really good game those first three quarters so it was an opportunity for other guys to play minutes that they've earned."

There were a few halfhearted chants of: "Harden! Harden!" midway through the fourth quarter from a few fans who hoped to see him come back in to make Rockets history, but D'Antoni kept the bearded superstar on the bench with the game well in hand.

He's the third player in 25 seasons to have 60 points in three quarters, joining Klay Thompson in 2016 and Bryant (2005). Saturday was the 20th 50-point game of Harden's career, which is the fourth-most in NBA history and eight more than any other active player.

Houston's Ben McLemore scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Russell Westbrook added 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

De'Andre Hunter had 14 points for Atlanta, which shot 15-of-46 from 3-point range.

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