Mike D’Antoni says James Harden could be back by Thursday

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The Houston Rockets have done alright in the absence of James Harden, who has been out with a Grade 2 hamstring strain for the last six games. Mike D’Antoni’s squad has gone 4-2 over that stretch, but now Houston’s head coach says his MVP candidate could return as soon as Thursday.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, D’Antoni said that Harden’s return is imminent, and could be anywhere between Thursday and Saturday.

“It could be Thursday or Saturday, I don’t know,” D’Antoni told ESPN’s Dave MacMahon. “He’s got to get better. We’ll see. Whenever he’s ready.”

That’s great news for Houston, who surprised many in how they integrated Harden and newcomer Chris Paul. The team has been better on defense, and even Harden seems to have stepped up his intensity on that side of the ball.

Meanwhile, the Rockets is also likely to get Luc Mbah a Moute back next week. He has been out for a month with a dislocated right shoulder.

Houston remains atop the Western Conference with the Golden State Warriors, trailing the defending NBA champions by 3.5 games. The Rockets are currently on a three game win streak.