Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while thinking a “21 Jump Street”/”Men in Black” crossover movie is about the worst idea ever…
James Harden. On the second night of a back-to-back in a tight game, he simply took over. He owned it. Which is what the very best do. Harden scored 13 straight points at the end of regulation and during the Rockets 10-1 run to start overtime. He had 44 points on 32 shots overall on the night (he scored 43 percent of the Rockets points when he was on the court) plus he dished out eight assists. The Rockets are now 8-3 since Dwight Howard went down and in that time Harden is averaging 29.1 points a game, is shooting 39 percent from three, plus is dishing out 6.1 assist and pulling down 6 rebounds a game. Simply put, James Harden is playing like an MVP. The Rockets’ defense is improved this season, but Harden is carrying their offense right now.
Russell Westbrook. His teammate Kevin Durant came out trying to be a playmaker. The rest of his Thunder teammates seemed groggy, like they just woke from a nap. Not Russell Westbrook. He came out looking to make a statement to everyone who said Kyrie Irving is the better point guard. Westbrook had 10 points in the first quarter on his way to 23 in the game. He played angry and was a force. For most of the game he was the Thunder’s best player. Plus he did this:
Kevin Durant. The Cavaliers made this a game late on the road, they battled and got within four points and 1:45 left. Then Durant did Durant things. A dunk (after Kyrie Irving gambled on a steal), then the Nowitzkiesque step-back, then the layup in traffic. With the game on the line he looked every bit the MVP again and scored the team’s final eight points to secure the win.
Cavaliers fans. Why? Because they still get to see Kyrie Irving playing basketball. There was a moment not long before halftime when Irving went up to block a Westbrook jumper, the two hit knee-to-knee, then Irving came down awkwardly. It was the kind of landing that can mean all sorts of torn things. Irving stayed on the ground for a while then went straight to the locker room with help. It looked bad. Then came word it was just a contusion, Irving warmed up for the second half and played the entire third quarter. And Cavaliers fans could exhale.