Garrison Mathews earns MVP chants, steals show from James Harden as Rockets win seventh straight

·2 min read

In the fourth quarter of his Houston homecoming, former Rockets star James Harden drilled one of his classic step-back 3-pointers while being fouled, leading to a 4-point play to bring Brooklyn within four points with over seven minutes left. A minute later, Eric Gordon — the top scorer and most established veteran on the Rockets — was ejected.

It felt like a classic setup for the young Rockets, who led by 17 heading to the fourth quarter at Toyota Center, to finally fall back to earth. But thanks in large part to fan favorite Garrison Mathews, it didn’t happen, and the Rockets (8-16) somehow extended their historic winning streak to seven in Wednesday’s 114-104 win (box score) over Harden and the Nets, who own the best record (17-8) in the Eastern Conference.

Mathews scored 12 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, including 9 in the final six minutes, which allowed Houston to absorb a strong counter-punch from Harden (25 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists). The 25-year-old also had a block and a steal against the former MVP late in the game, and after the steal and resulting free throws from a Harden foul, the joyous fans at Toyota Center loudly chanted M-V-P with Mathews at the line.

“It felt good,” said Mathews, who has jokingly drawn the “Garry Bird” nickname on Rockets Twitter — in reference to Larry Bird. “It’s great feeling when you win seven in a row, especially against a team like that. James Harden is one of the most iconic players of all time.”

Not bad for a third-year player on a two-way contract, and one who was waived during the 2021-22 preseason.

Mathews and the Rockets will look to keep their improbable run going when they face off against reigning NBA champion Milwaukee on Friday night at Toyota Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Central.

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