We already know James Harden doesn’t really care how much he shoots and misses, but he probably outdid himself and still got away with it as the Houston Rockets beat the Sacramento Kings 102-89 thanks to Isaiah Canaan going wild with his three-point shooting.
Harden went 10-of-31 from the field to finish with 26 points. Not exactly efficient. Still, he made two big defensive plays along the way which isn’t like the old him. One big steal to give himself a chance to dunk on the open court and actually blocking DeMarcus Cousins from behind on one of the plays. Harden has his moments of looking like a lost puppy when there’s a need for a defensive rotation, but he has turned a page over the offseason, maybe due to the added responsibility given to him with Team USA.
Canaan scored 24 points including making six 3-pointers, a lot of them off of his own dribbling. Not a catch-and-shoot guy, Daniels simply moved around screens or took surprising step backs that the Kings’ defense seemed to constantly be surprised by. He’s hitting 42.4% of his three-point attempts this season, getting a lot more playing time and responsibility compared to his rookie season which wasn’t very memorable.
The Kings weren’t exactly at their best. Cousins did score 29 points, but Rudy Gay wasn’t playing and Darren Collison was also missing. Instead, Ramon Sessions started at point guard to give them only 8 points, while Omri Casspi did a slightly better job at small forward, scoring 14 points. Going back to the team he started it all with, Casspi did pretty well against the team he played for last season. He also had a fine start before McHale slowly dropped him out of the rotation.
The most surprising contribution for the Rockets came from Donatas Motiejunas, scoring 21 points as he continues to fill in for Terrence Jones, next to Tarik Black in the front court. The Rockets defense led by Trevor Ariza forced 20 turnovers off of the Kings, leading to a lot of easy points, scoring 52 points in the paint. If it wasn’t for Harden shooting so badly and without a shred of a conscious, the Rockets were hitting just over 50% of their shots.
While Harden having a rough shooting night isn’t something new, especially this season, as he drops before 40% once more, taking 31 shots is a rarity. It was the first time in his career he has gone over 30. He does have a reputation for being a ball hog, but one has to remember few players in this league can get to the line as easily as Harden does, taking 9.7 shots from the line each game. It has something to do with the weird way officials call fouls in this league, rewarding offensive players for initiating contact.
With the win the Rockets improve to 12-3 and doing quite well despite Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones not playing. It’s only god enough for fourth in the West, as three teams other than the Rockets have won at least 80% of their games – Memphis, Golden State and Portland. Beating the Kings stands in line with some of their best wins of the season, even with the depleted lineup for both sides, and shows that maybe even more than last season, the Rockets are to be taken seriously.