In case you thought James Harden only looked like he could ball because he was playing next to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook… honestly, if you thought that what guy have you you watching? Harden has been fantastic the last few years. The guy didn’t make the Olympic team because Coach K liked his beard.
One game does not prove a player a No. 1 option, an alpha dog, an elite superstar on a team. But Harden, unleashed from OKC, sure looked the part in his Rockets debut.
Harden put up a monster line — 37 points on 25 shots, plus 12 assists — and led an 11-point fourth quarter comeback as the Rockets beat the Pistons 105-96.
What you want your alpha dog to be is a closer — Harden was that in leading a 33-15 fourth quarter win and comeback by the Rockets. He hit a couple threes, he attacked off the pick-and-roll and got in the lane, he set up his teammates, he was everything you would want.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey had to look at Harden’s shot chart and just grin like a Cheshire Cat — stats tell you the most efficient shots are at the rim or beyond the three point arc, and of Harden’s 25 shots on the night 10 were threes and 11 were in the restricted area.
It was a masterful performance, and frankly we knew Harden had it in him — we saw flashes of this when he played for the Thunder. Watching him in this game, it was clear he reined in some of what he could do to fit in along side Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. We knew he sacrificed. We understood he had more game.
What we didn’t know — what we still don’t know — is if he can do this consistently. Defenses are going to target him, game plans will be drawn up to stop him, and Harden has to produce like this consistently. Jeremy Lin can help — good things happened when he was on the floor for the Rockets and he was a game high +23 on the night and had 8 dimes — but this game showed the Rockets are now Harden’s team. He is the man. The face and beard of the franchise. He is their alpha dog.
And for a night at least, he looked fully up to the task.
In his first night back from an ankle injury that forced him to miss six games, Stephen Curry limped off the court not to return after in third quarter Friday night after JaVale McGee fell into his knee.
He limped to the bench then eventually to the locker room after the injury.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) —Bojan Bogdanovic scored 28 points and the Indiana Pacers used a late 9-0 run to hold on for a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, putting them on the precipice of clinching a playoff spot.
The Pacers won for only the second time in five games but can clinch a playoff berth with one more win or a Detroit loss.
Los Angeles’ fading playoff aspirations were dealt another blow. The Clippers are now three games behind Utah for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. Utah was playing later Friday.
Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 27 points and DeAndre Jordan finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers lost for the fifth time in six games.
They certainly had a chance to turn things around.
After the Clippers rallied from an 18-point deficit to take an 88-87 lead with 7:36 left in the fourth quarter, the teams traded the lead 10 times before Victor Oladipo made one of two free throws to leave it tied at 100 with 2:17 to play.
Bogdanovic broke the tie with a 12-footer and the Pacers followed that with seven straight points before Williams made a layup with 12 seconds left to end the run.
The Clippers were making shots early but couldn’t pull away from Indiana.
They led 28-27 after one and allowed Indiana to use a 9-2 spurt midway through the second quarter to erase a six-point deficit and take a 40-39 lead.
The Pacers scored the final five points of the half to break a 53-all tie and broke it open early in the third when Oladipo made his first three shots of the game, including two 3-pointers to make it 66-55.
Indiana then poured it on. Thaddeus Young‘s layup with 9:02 left in the third made it a 12-point game. Milos Teodosic‘s basket briefly halted the run, but the Pacers scored the next nine points to make it 75-57 with 6:19 to go.
Los Angeles closed the third quarter on a 12-5 run to get to 82-76.
LeBron James throws touchdown pass like Cleveland fans hope Sam Darnold can
Finally healthy, it was easy to see where big man Brandan Wright would fit on Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets — he’s an athletic big man who can get up and down the court, he knows how to finish lobs above the rim, and could provide some front line depth behind Clint Capela and Nene. That’s why the Rockets picked him up in February after he was bought out by the Grizzlies.
It didn’t work out that way. Wright played in one game with Houston before his sore knee forced him to shut it down. He has not played since.
With center Brandan Wright unable to return from his knee issues this season, the Rockets will release Wright, who signed as a free agent last month, a person with knowledge of the move said…
He had a minor procedure and will work on his rehab with the Rockets staff, the individual familiar with the plans said.
“Brandan did everything positive,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He just wasn’t physically able to hang in there. We hate it that the guy isn’t part of this.”
Wright has played in just 28 total this season averaging 5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 13.6 minutes. He’s battled knee issues for a few seasons now and has not played more than 28 games in the last three. If healthy he can help teams, but we’ll see if he ever gets back into the NBA.
The Rockets use Ryan Anderson as their backup center, using Nene less of late, although how much D’Antoni can use Anderson in the playoffs due to his defensive challenges remains to be seen.
Nash, who played a season at Oklahoma State, will get his first taste of the NBA. He was a highly recruited kid out of high school, and this season has averaged 8.5 points in 19 minutes per game for the Rio Grande Vipers this season.