Three Things to Know: Rockets win big with 57 from Harden, lose big with Capela out

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Houston wins big with record-setting 57 from James Harden, lose big with Clint Capela out. Chris Paul remains sidelined with his hamstring issue. Eric Gordon’s knee has kept him in street clothes (although he could return later this week). Two key rotation players down for Houston.

Make that three. Center Clint Capela, the team’s second-best player during its recent run back into the playoffs, will be out 4-6 weeks with a ligament issue in his right hand. In his last five games, Capela averaged 19.6 points on 59.7 percent shooting, pulling down 11.4 rebounds a game, and they were +7.6 per game with him on the court. That’s a lot of production to replace.

It meant even more pressure on James Harden.

He responded in Memphis with maybe his best game of the season: 57 points and 12 rebounds, leading the Rockets past the Grizzlies 112-94. Harden had 36 points in the first half and finished with more points than the Grizzlies starting five combined (57-53) and had more than half of Houston’s points on the night.

Harden also passed Kobe Bryant with a record 17th straight 30+ game.

Hardens’ run has been incredible, but in the West the man is going to need some help if the goal is to have home court in the first round of the playoffs and set themselves up for a deep run. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has been calling around the league looking for wing help for his team, now a rotation center will be on the list, too. Nene started against Memphis but played fewer than 14 minutes, and that’s about the max he can be expected to give at this point. Struggling Memphis was not able to exploit the smaller bench lineups of the Warriors, but other teams will.

The problem for Houston: They are not deep with good trade assets (this is a “win now” team), which likely means surrendering picks to get a deal done.

Speaking of trades, Memphis is 2-8 in its last 10, has fallen to 14th in the West, is four games out of the playoffs, and that’s with a tough stretch of games ahead of them. If they fall farther back, and with Marc Gasol as a free agent next summer, does Memphis have to consider what it would not last summer: Breaking up the core and rebuilding around Jaren Jackson Jr.? Owner Robert Pera wouldn’t go for that last summer, but will he now?

2) Tony Parker treated like a champion in his return to San Antonio. In NBA history, only one player who had won at least four championships and had a Finals MVP with a franchise returned to play against it: Michael Jordan returning to play Chicago in a Washington jersey.

Monday night Tony Parker became the second.

He came home to San Antonio wearing the teal of the Charlotte Hornets and was greeted like a champion with a beautifully done video tribute.

Then the fans rewarded him standing ovation when he checked in.

Late in the game, a 108-93 Charlotte win, the fans chanted for Parker and coach James Borrego put him back in so the fans could show their appreciation one more time. After the game it was Gregg Popovich’s turn.

It was quite the contrast from Kawhi Leonard’s recent return.

3) Anthony Davis looks like an MVP with 46 points and 16 rebounds to lead Pelicans past the Clippers. If the MVP voting took place today, James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo would finish 1-2 in some order.

Anthony Davis would not win because his team is a couple of games below .500 and out of the playoff chase.

But based on the numbers Davis should be in the mix (our own Dan Feldman picked Davis as his mid-season MVP).

Or, use the eye test and watch Davis play. He had 46 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Pelicans past the Clippers Monday night.

Davis’ challenge is he has to play like this every night for New Orleans even to have a chance in a game. He has far more nights than not, but even then it’s not enough.

Davis is going to be THE focus of the NBA summer, whether he re-signs in New Orleans or the franchise has to consider trading him. Watch him against the Clippers and you see why he’s worth all the hype.