Despite not having Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones in the lineup yet again, the Houston Rockets keep on with their winning ways, led by a fantastic James Harden in a 91-86 win over the New York Knicks, having to play without Carmelo Anthony in the second half after he exited with an aching back.
Harden scored 36 points to go with six rebounds and six assists, hitting seven shots from beyond the arc to lead the depleted Rockets team against a bad New York Knicks team, that actually didn’t look all that bad once Anthony left the floor. They did kind of fall apart in the final quarter, but suddenly it wasn’t too predictable when it came to who finished on offense.
They still found it difficult to find another go-to-guy. Anthony scored 14 points and he didn’t play in the second half. He was the only Knicks player to score in double figures, with 9 points from Jose Calderon and 9 from Travis Wear being next in line. Four more players scored 8 points each, as the Knicks turned the ball over 17 times and shot only 27.3% from beyond the arc, struggling to score in the paint (26 points) despite the absence of Howard.
Besides Harden? There was Donatas Motiejunas with 13 points, including off a beautiful assist from Harden between the legs of a defender, and 10 points for Trevor Ariza, who was complimented by both Harden and McHale at the end of the game for being a player that does a lot more than the stat sheet says. The Rockets have the best defensive efficiency in the NBA. While Dwight Howard plays a big part in that, the addition of Ariza and finally having perimeter defense has helped them reach that mark.
Should Harden be shooting this much? That’s probably the wrong question to ask. There are no limitations on how Harden plays in the Rockets. It’s always about how he feels during the game. He can have the spirit of a point guard pop into his body and turn him into the most sharing player in the world, but that never lasts for very long. Most of the time he’s doing his best Kobe Bryant imitation, only Harden is a better player at this point of their careers. While Bryant shooting and shooting looks embarrassing at times, Harden is one of those players that can win on his own, although he does more harm than good on occasion.
It’s been a slow start for him in terms of shooting efficiency and even scoring, but now that so many players are missing (including Patrick Beverley) Harden can shoot as much as he’d like again. It’s back to above 40 in terms of field goal accuracy (40.1% to be exact) and he’s averaging 25.2 points for the season – around his usual numbers since becoming a Rocket. He has averaged 34 points over the last couple of games, both of them wins.
But with all of the compliments to Harden this season and in this specific games, he still has those moments, especially on defense, that leave everyone shaking their head. He can actually play defense when he wants to, so when these plays happen it’s even more shocking than before:
On reddit they called this Harden turning into a Gargoyle on defense.