Maybe Jeremy Lin has the better selling jersey, but there’s no doubt who is the main reason for the Houston Rockets being successful this season: James Harden, loving the spotlight.
After three seasons as the third guy at best, James Harden is the superstar with a capital S for the Houston Rockets. He’s the beginning and the end of everything on offense, and despite having a talented group of guys playing around him, the main issue is that they’re playing for him. Without James Harden, there wouldn’t be much worth talking about when mentioning the Houston Rockets this season.
He’s already on his way into the franchise history books. After scoring 29 points in the 112-104 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, including a fourth quarter comeback, he’s now only one game short of tying the franchise record for consecutive games with 25 points or more. He’s currently at 12, tied with Elvin Hayes. One more, and he’ll be tied for the record with Moses Malone.
Harden has been on a roll, this season and especially in recent weeks. He’s averaging 29.5 points over the last 10 games for the team, as the Rockets go on to win eight of their last 10 and nine of their last 11. He got a lot of help from Jeremy Lin in the last one after a couple of rough games for the point guard, this time chipping in with 20 points, but this ride has mostly been about Harden.
Kevin McHale, the head coach of the Rockets, can’t stop talking about his do-it-all-guard. James sure made a couple of big shots, no doubt about that. He made some great plays and as a team, we found a way to make plays through him. He waved the post player off a couple of times because he wanted to go one-on-one. He was really feeling it there. You saw him in a situation in OKC where he was part of that three-headed monster. Sometimes guys want that to have that spotlight and want to be the man and some of them can’t handle it. Obviously he’s been able to handle it extremely well.
Aside from Harden, other things are going well for the Rockets. Jeremy Lin stopped a streak of single digit scoring with his big night, scoring 20 points with 7-13 from the field and 3-5 from beyond the arc, much better than his usual sub-45% during most of the season.
The surprise was seeing the Rockets do well without Omer Asik, missing a lot of time due to foul trouble, playing in only 21 minutes. Luckily for the Rockets, there’s no one on the Cleveland Cavaliers who can really dominate the boards as long as Anderson Varejao is out. Greg Smith had a big nights on the boards with a double double of 11-11 and Patrick Patterson continues to thrive in his sixth-man role, scoring 15 points off the bench, and the Rockets extremely enjoying the new rotation between him and Marcus Morris, who finished in double figures as well.
The Rockets have found most of their success this season up to this point against the Eastern teams, teams that simply can’t keep up with them. Whenever they face the better teams out West, like the Spurs and the Thunder, they’re reduced back to their actual size. A borderline postseason team with one true superstar, and quite a few needs of improvement, looking forward to a bright future.