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Rockets' James Harden on bruised right knee: 'It can't get worse'

HOUSTON -- Rockets guard James Harden said he was "pretty close" to not playing Saturday night due to a bruised right knee and anticipates having to play through pain for an extended period of time.

Harden hurt the knee when he crashed into the basket support after being fouled by San Antonio Spurs guard Brandon Paul during the Rockets' victory Friday. He was considered a game-time decision Saturday night, then went on to score a game-high 31 points as Houston extended its winning streak to 13 games with a 115-111 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.

"I wasn't feeling well at all, but the doc came in and just told me that there's going to be pain for a bit, but you can play through it," Harden said. "It can't get worse, but it's going to be pretty painful until obviously you give it some time. Once he said that, I was like, 'Let's go.'"

Harden, who leads the NBA in scoring (31.5 points per game) and ranks second in assists (9.3), said he didn't know how long pain in the knee would be a problem. However, he made it clear that he has no intention to miss any games, saying he'd get treatment on the Rockets' off day Sunday and be ready to play Monday against the Utah Jazz. Harden, who was 8-of-21 from the floor against the Bucks, acknowledged that the soreness in his knee significantly limited his explosiveness.

"I wasn't moving like I usually move, but we won," said Harden, who missed a total of only two games over the previous three seasons. "Move on to the next game."

The Rockets, playing their third game in four nights, were down two rotation players due to injuries. Starting center Clint Capela (left heel contusion) is day-to-day. Key reserve forward Luc Mbah a Moute (right shoulder dislocation) is expected to miss two to three weeks.

The victory over the Bucks was the closest game during the Rockets' winning streak, with 10 of the 13 victories coming by double figures. According to Chris Paul, it was perhaps the most satisfying.

"This is one of our best wins of the season, to tell you the truth," said Paul, noting Harden playing hurt and the Rockets fighting fatigue against a "grind-out" Milwaukee team.

"I think it just showed the fight that our team has and the maturity that our team has," he said. "You should have heard P.J. [Tucker] at halftime and a number of other guys. We just kept talking about find a way, find a way, and we did."

Paul, playing his first back-to-back of the season, scored 23 of his 25 points in the second half. He was 0-of-5 from the floor in the first half but finished 7-of-13, heating up with three quick 3-pointers early in the third quarter and knocking down dagger pull-up midrange jumpers on consecutive possessions late in the game.

"I've never coached him in a back-to-back, so I'm thinking he's kind of dead," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Then all of a sudden, he comes out in the third quarter and turns into Superman."

Paul, who missed a month due to a bruised left knee early in the season, still hasn't lost a game in which he has played for the Rockets. Houston is 14-0 with Paul, breaking a tie with Dennis Rodman of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for the most consecutive victories by a starter to begin a tenure with a new team, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"We want to keep it going. I mean, who likes to lose?" Paul said. "I said it before: I hate losing more than I like to win. We want to keep this thing going and keep building. You know, people always say, 'We'll learn from that,' that you learn from a loss. Well, let's win and learn from it, too."

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James Harden says that he plans on playing through the pain for an extended period of time, knowing that it "can't get worse."
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