James Harden, Kevin McHale

James Harden, Kevin McHale
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But it doesn’t mean that it’s good for the Houston Rockets in the long run. However, when it does work for James Harden; that tendency to eliminate the options of passing to teammates, it makes him look like one of the best players in the NBA, even though that the team players its best basketball when Jeremy Lin is the one handling the ball and playing as the actual point guard.

The Houston Rockets came back from behind to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 103-100. James Harden led the team with 26 points on 7-of-14 from the field and 7 assists. Not for the first time this season, he decided to take over by himself on the Rockets’ comeback effort in the final minutes, scoring 10 of Houston’s final 17 points to put them in the lead for good, and assisted on a Dwight Howard basket during that impressive late run.

His biggest basket was when the game was tied at 100. Jeremy Lin brought the ball up the floor, handed it over to Harden, and the Pelicans made no indication of double teaming, instead leaving Austin Rivers alone to guard the red hot Harden. Now, Harden doesn’t always make the best decisions when the ball is in his hands, but to leave him in a one on one situation against a defender who’s nothing special in stopping players is a huge mistake. It ended with Harden shaking off his marker and hitting the shot that gave the Rockets the win.

Is this good for the long run? We can’t emphasize this enough, but no. The previous win for the Rockets (104-92 over the Celtics) was a good example of how the Rockets should be playing. Fast basketball that doesn’t use too many one on ones in half-court sets, even though Harden couldn’t help himself (and was slightly humiliated by Avery Bradley). That style works great for Jeremy Lin and the rest of the team, including Dwight Howard. The slow, long possessions that Harden loves to force on the offense so much has its advantages, but only when Harden is having a good shooting day, and at 45.1% from the field this season, it means it’s not something you can trust without thinking twice.

This kind of basketball hurts Dwight Howard, who had only five field goal attempts, finishing with 12 points. This team isn’t about giving Harden, Lin or Howard big numbers; it’s about winning games and hopefully challenging for the NBA title. However, there has to be balance in how the ball moves around, which isn’t always the case when Harden gets to be the one handling the ball.

It was a great game for Terrence Jones with 25 points, 8 rebounds and 6 blocks. Chandler Parsons had a good game with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Jeremy Lin finished with 13 points and 4 assists but the highest +/- among Rockets players, which doesn’t always mean anything but does give an indication of where the ball should be going to make this team look better, and not wait for Harden to save the day in the final minutes.

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