Atlanta, GA – James Harden is certainly cementing himself as the Houston Rockets' go-to guy.
After going for 37 points in his Rockets debut on Wednesday, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year poured in a career-high 45 points to lead Houston past the Atlanta Hawks, 109-102, on Friday.
Harden finished 14-for-19 from the field and also converted on 15-of-17 free throws, and had seven rebounds. He scored 18 points in the final quarter, when he went 12-of-13 from the charity stripe.
"It's different, it is a lot different," Harden said of his new role. "Coming off the bench and not starting, and then having basically the entire offense run through you is a lot different. I just have to get used to it, it is my job now. I have to get going."
Jeremy Lin added 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists and Marcus Morris chipped in 17 points off the bench for Houston, which is 2-0 for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
Lou Williams, who was signed by Atlanta in the offseason, led the Hawks with 22 points off the bench. Josh Smith posted a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Al Horford and Jeff Teague each donated 14 points in the Hawks' regular season opener.
"We made a run, and they handled it well, they took it and got their composure back, so you have to give them credit," Horford said. "I don't think we played well enough to win the game tonight."
The Rockets led by as many as 16 in the third quarter, but Atlanta came roaring back with a 38-22 run to tie the game at 90-90 with just over 6 1/2 minutes left.
Chandler Parsons nailed a big three with just under two minutes remaining to give the Rockets a 100-94 lead, however, and Harden converted all seven free throws in the final 1:05 to seal the win for Houston.
Williams nailed a three with 47.9 seconds left to pull Atlanta within 104-100, and following a pair of Lin free throws, Williams fired up another shot from beyond the arc that fell short.
Harden was then fouled while attempting a three and converted all of the subsequent free throws to put the Rockets up seven. Teague then added a short jumper with 10 seconds left to account for the final margin.
"I just tried to make plays. My teammates were looking for me, not just to score the basketball, but pass it as well," Harden said. "Not only me, but Chandler (Parsons) hit a big three, (Patrick Patterson) hit a big one and guys are stepping up at key times and that is good for our team."
Houston took a 28-21 lead after one quarter, closing the frame on an 8-2 run led by Morris, who scored 10 of his 17 points in the period -- six of which came in the final 1:42.
The Rockets shot just 37.5 percent from the floor in the second, but were able to take a 53-44 advantage into the break.
Harden's previous career-high was 40 points ... The Rockets shot just 26.7 percent from the 3-point line (8-30), but converted 25-of-29 from the charity stripe as a team ... Zaza Pachulia and DeShawn Stevenson had 13 and 12 points, respectively, for the Hawks.