Three Things We Leaned Thursday: James Harden vs. Warriors, are you not entertained?

Associated Press
12 Comments

This was as good an early season night of NBA games as we’ve seen, hopefully you stayed up late for a good one rather than watched The Crown with you wife.

1) James Harden gets triple-double, ends Warriors 12-game winning streak — ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!?! The Golden State Warriors play the beautiful game — sweet shooters, guys moving off the ball, selflessly passing up good shots for great ones (except Andre Iguodala late in this game, who passed up great for good). James Harden in Mike D’Antoni’s offense with shooters around him is a video game cheat code.

Put those two together and the result was as much fun as an NBA regular season game is going to be.

Harden had 29 points, 15 rebounds, and 13 assists to lead Houston to the 132-127 double-overtime win that snapped the Warriors’ 12-game winning streak. The shooters Daryl Morey brought in last summer to put around Harden did their jobs Thursday — Ryan Anderson had 29 points, Eric Gordon 23. On the other side, Durant added 39. The two teams combined for an NBA record 88 three pointers in one game. You couldn’t take your eyes off this one.

Golden State actually played decent enough defense — they held the Rockets to 103.8 points per 100 possessions, nearly six points off their season average. But the Warriors just missed their looks — they were 12-of-44 from three as a team, with Stephen Curry going 4-of-13 and a cold Klay Thompson hitting 3-of-13 (KD was 3-of-11). As a team, the Warriors were 23-of-50 (46 percent) on uncontested shots. That’s not going to get it done (nor will it happen often). Plus, as with every big game, Draymond Green picked up a technical for kicking someone (Harden in the face this time).

This is the kind of win that boosts the Rockets’ playoff chances — they will slump at some point this season for a stretch, wins like this provide a cushion. For the Warriors, they will shrug it off and keep on winning. A Dec. 1 game is not a playoff predictor of any sort.

But it can be must watch television.

2) What problems? Clippers bounce back, blow out Cavaliers in Cleveland. The Clippers started the season 14-2 and there was a whole lot of “has this Clippers’ core finally figured it out?” questions. Then came the recent, ugly three-game losing streak on the road where the offense stumbled and the bench defense looked disjointed, which led to a lot of, “see, there are the inconsistent Clippers we expect.”

Los Angeles’ answer? Go into Cleveland and blow out the defending world champions 113-94.

The Clippers haven’t answered any tough questions until they can do this on a bigger playoff stage, but this is a more comfortable and mature Clippers team — one that knows it has the sword of free agency hanging over this roster — that looks like it may be able to do just that.

Nobody who knows the game should have thought the Clipper offense would continue to struggle — they have been a top-10 team on that end the previous five years for a reason. The Clippers moved the ball beautifully and had 33 assists on 42 made field goals. J.J. Redick was the hot hand and playmaker in the first half with 21 points. In the second Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the entire team got theirs, the Clippers opened the half on a 13-2 run, they were up 19 at that point and the game was over.

It was over because the Clipper bench played well again — they outscored the Cavs bench by 18 (Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford each had 12 points), plus played solid defense and sustained the lead they were handed.

The one other unsung standout in this game: Luc Mbah a Moute for the Clippers. All the Clippers ask of their starting small forward is hit some corner threes and defend well — Mbah a Moute was a key reason LeBron James had a 5-of-14 shooting night. He played LeBron as well as anyone is going to, and while LeBron helped out (3-of-7 on uncontested shots, according to NBA.com) the Clipper defender who harassed him deserves credit.

3) Giannis Antetokounmpo is insanely good. With two great games on TNT fewer eyeballs may have found the other games Thursday night, but Giannis Antetokounmpo was beasting in Brooklyn — 23 points on 14 shots, eight assists and eight rebounds, leading the Bucks to the win. The Bucks two best lineups of the night were the starters, and Antetokounmpo with the core bench guys — he was getting into the paint and there’s no easy way to slow him down.