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Houston Rockets set franchise record with 59th regular season win

Even before the postseason begins, this year’s Houston Rockets squad has already done more than its predecessors in at least one aspect.

Saturday night’s 114-91 victory over the Pelicans was the Rockets’ 59th win of the season, a new franchise best. It tops the previous mark set by the 1993-94 squad that went on to win the franchise’s first NBA championship.

Kia Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden has led Houston to its most successful season yet since his arrival via trade in 2012. The All-Star guard is averaging 31.0 points per contest, second only to Moses Malone (31.1 ppg, 1981-82) in franchise history. His 11.2 assists per contest is already far and away the best such mark in Rockets annals.

The achievement carries a tinge of deja vu for coach Mike D’Antoni, who steered the Phoenix Suns to a team record-tying 62 wins in the 2004-05 campaign. Assuming the Rockets win at least one more game this year, it would be the third D’Antoni-led team to win at least 60 games.

The two-time NBA Coach of the Year, however, is trying to add a more elusive laurel to his achievements — a trip to the NBA Finals. Houston has not advanced that far since winning the second of back-to-back titles in 1995. That, D’Antoni said after Saturday’s game, remains the team’s only goal of concern.

“They didn’t care [about setting the franchise record for wins],” D’Antoni told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon after the game. “They didn’t care. I’m kind of happy. I thought it was nice. They absolutely did not care.”