Three Takeaways from NBA Thursday: James Harden has Houston looking like playoff team

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Here’s what you need to know from a Thursday around the Association.

1) James Harden scores 46, wills Rockets to win and back into the playoff picture. Dan Feldman and I debated this a little in the last PBT Podcast: Will the Houston Rockets make the playoffs? They’re almost too talented not to. That said, they were playing worse than Utah, Portland, and everyone else they are battling for that final playoff spot.

Thursday night that talent won out. Specifically, Harden won out. For two-and-a-half quarters, the game followed the recent narrative of Portland playing hard and together behind a motivated Damian Lillard (23 points on the night), which was too much for a disjointed Rockets team to match (a Rockets team where the focus had been off the court all day). Then the script just flipped. Houston got hot and ended the game on a 44-16 run, coming from 21 back in the third to get the 119-105 win. Harden fueled it all, with 34 of his 46 points coming in the second half. There were others — Trevor Ariza played good defense on Lillard (6-of-20 shooting), and both Jason Terry and Corey Brewer stepped up for the much-maligned Rockets bench. This win, combined with a Utah loss to San Antonio, has the Rockets back as the eight seed in the West. For now.



2) Isaiah Thomas may have the assist of the year.
The Celtics picked their ninth straight win at home, and the Bucks bench showed their frustration, but after the game all anyone wanted to talk about was Thomas’ pass to Jae Crowder for a key three. With good reason. You don’t see passes like that often.



3) Yawn. Another day, another 51 points and a new shooting record for Stephen Curry.
Curry does the incredible so often that we’ve become desensitized to it. Thursday night in Orlando, on the second night of a back-to-back, Curry dropped 51 points and led the Warriors to a victory over a feisty Magic team. Along the way he hit 10 threes, making it an NBA record 128 consecutive games with a made three, passing Kyle Korver. Just another day at the office