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) James Harden’s Chamberlainesqe run hits a new high in Madison Square Garden. For all he has dome already in his career — MVP award, scoring champion, six-time All-Star, Sixth Man of the Year — James Harden had never had his Garden moment.
Check that one off the list.
James Harden went into Madison Square Garden and dropped 61 on the Knicks Wednesday night leading the Rockets to a 114-110 win.
This was impressive on so many levels we’re going to bullet points.
• It was Harden’s career high.
• The 61 tied Kobe Bryant for most points scored by an opponent in Madison Square Garden since 1968. (Carmelo Anthony holds the overall record at 62).
• Those 61 points are now the Rockets’ franchise record for a game.
• Harden in this game became the first NBA player to shoot at least 20 threes and 20 free throws in a game.
• This was Harden’s 21st consecutive 30-point game, tying the legendary Wilt Chamberlain for fourth-longest such streak in league history (Chamberlain has the top three, too).
• This was his fifth 50+ point game this season, the only other players to have five or more are Kobe and Michael Jordan
• Harden has averaged 52.2 points per game in his last five games, a total of 261 points.
• Harden scored those 261 points without a teammate assisting on one of those buckets. (Some people want to use this as a slight to Harden and call him selfish, but it’s more about his teammates and the lack of other shot creators on this team. They don’t have them, and Harden has to do this to win — he dropped 61 and they only beat the lowly Knicks by four. The Rockets are 3-2 during this insane run because of those teammates and the team’s defense. Also, he would have a lot more than 21 assists in those five games if his teammates could knock down shots.)
• Harden became the first player to score 60+ points and have 15+ rebounds in a game since then-Laker Shaquille O’Neal in March of 2000.
To cap it off, Harden had the seal and dunk that sealed the win.
2) Pacers’ Victor Oladipo was taken off the court on a stretcher with what looks to be a serious knee injury. All we can do is hope this is not as bad as it looked. But the Pacers fear that it is.
Indiana’s All-Star (and a lock to be again this season) Victor Oladipo went down with an ugly-to-watch knee injury. Here is the video, but know this is hard to watch and some of you may want to skip it.
The Pacers called the injury “serious” and said an MRI is scheduled for Thursday, but we know nothing else concrete, yet. It’s safe to say the Pacers are not optimistic about the outcome of that MRI.
Indiana is 32-15 on the season and hung on against Toronto to win without Oladipo 110-107. This season the Pacers are 7-4 with an impressive +6.6 per game when Oladipo has missed the game — if they can just hang around .500 the rest of the way Indiana will cruise into the playoffs.
However, this team is not near the same threat without Oladipo. If he is going to miss the rest of this season and, potentially, much of next season, the Pacers’ front office may want to change plans and become sellers at the trade deadline. They have to consider adding youth and athleticism to the roster and targeting when Oladipo returns from this injury. It puts a lot of things up in the air.
Which is too bad, because Indiana was one of the great stories of this season.
3) Jazz beat Nuggets in what had the intensity of a playoff game. In Salt Lake City, they see the upstart team in second place in the West, the team with the center who is a media darling and players winning over fans, and they think “that should be us, not Denver.” Instead, Utah got off to a slow start and only recently has put things together to climb back into the playoff picture.
Last night the teams faced off in what was one of the more intense and entertaining games of the season — it felt a lot like the playoffs for a Wednesday in January.
Rudy Gobert may be the best defensive center in the game and the Jazz one of the elite defenses in the league, but they don’t have an answer for Nikola Jokic either, he had 28 points, 21 rebounds, and six assists in the game.
Gobert himself scored 15 points and had three blocks, but this was the Donovan Mitchell show — 35 points with six three-pointers in what ended up a 114-108 Jazz win. Utah has figured it out this season, this is not a game they won a couple of months ago.
But that’s not the interesting part. Denver’s Jokic leaves the bench during the fight and heads down the baseline — by the rule that should lead to a suspension. To be fair, Jokic never steps on to the court itself and never engages with any Jazz players (before an assistant pulled him back to the bench). We’ll see how the league responds, but guys have been suspended for less.