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James Harden's unstoppable regular season carries into playoffs vs. Jazz

Yahoo! Sports logo Yahoo! Sports 4/18/2019 Jason Owens

Royce O'Neale, James Harden are posing for a picture: It's early in the playoffs, but concerns about James Harden running out of gas appear unfounded. (AP) © Provided by Oath Inc. It's early in the playoffs, but concerns about James Harden running out of gas appear unfounded. (AP) James Harden is most definitely not out of gas.

The Houston Rockets guard carried his team to the playoffs with an historic offensive season that included 32 consecutive 30-point games.

As the oft-hobbled Rockets regularly took the floor missing some combination of Chris Paul, Eric Gordon and Clint Capela, Harden almost singlehandedly kept his team in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, averaging 36.1 points, 7.5 assists and 6.6 rebounds in an MVP-caliber season.

BOX SCORE: ROCKETS 118, JAZZ 98

It was an effort that left many wondering if he’d have enough in the tank for the playoffs.

The Rockets are only two games in to the postseason. But so far, so good.

Harden, Rockets dominant, take 2-0 series lead

The Utah Jazz, who drew the short straw of the playoffs when the Rockets tumbled to the No. 4 seed on the last night of the season, had zero answer for Harden on Wednesday as the Rockets cruised again, this time to a 118-98 victory that gives them a 2-0 series lead.

The win comes on the heels of Sunday’s 122-90 Rockets win in Game 1 and does little to provide Jazz fans with any hope of competing in this series.

Harden posts 3rd career playoff triple-double

Harden scored seemingly at will with a combination of drives and his trademark step-back 3-pointers en route to a 32-point, 13-rebound, 10-assist triple-double.

He almost had the triple-double at half time with 25 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists as Houston rolled to a 70-44 lead that allowed him to take things relatively easy in the second half.

Even when he wasn’t scoring, he was putting on a show, as he did here at Ricky Rubio’s expense.

The Rockets didn’t really need him when he re-entered the game with 8:00 remaining and Houston leading, 97-73. But the extra time did allow him to secure the last assist needed for the triple-double.

Rockets did it on both sides of the ball

When TNT’s Allie LaForce asked him about the dominant performance, Harden didn’t want to talk about offense.

“That’s two games in a row where we held them under 100 points,” Harden said. “That’s gonna be the key to the series. Honestly, it starts now. We did what we’re supposed to do at home. We know how tough it’s gonna be in Utah, where they play much better.”

The Jazz limped out from the start with a 19-point first quarter and struggled on offense throughout the game while shooting 39.8 percent from the field. Only a 31-point effort in the garbage-time fourth quarter kept the 20-point final margin from reflecting how truly outmatched Utah was.

Donovan Mitchell disappears

Donovan Mitchell, the closest thing to a counterpart Utah has for Harden, shot 5-of-19 from the field in route to 11 points. He hit just 1-of-8 3-point attempts. His backcourt mate Ricky Rubio logged 17 points and 9 assists while shooting 7-of-17 from the field.

The Rockets got a balanced effort behind Harden with Paul scoring 17 and Gordon and P.J. Tucker each logging 16 points.

But make no mistake. As it has been all season, this was the James Harden show. And it will continue to be so as far as he can carry them this postseason.

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