In what was undoubtedly his best shooting performance ever, James Harden scored 51 points to lead the Houston Rockets in a 115-111 win over the Sacramento Kings and possibly clinching the MVP award for himself.
The discussion will still carry over to the final games of the season, but Harden has two 50-point games in the span of two weeks. He once again carried the Rockets to a win without Dwight Howard, who is getting plenty of rest minutes and leisure time to adjust after being out for such a long while. The competition from Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook and even LeBron James might be fierce, but it’s hard to deny Harden based on the usual factors we see determining MVP voting.
Harden hit 16-of-25 from the field including 8-of-9 from beyond the arc. Wide open from the corner or contested from a more central angle, Harden was unstoppable from long range, while also getting the usual help from officials, being very gentle and open in their interpretation when it comes to deciding what’s an actual foul. Harden helps them out by falling at every opportunity, going to the line 13 times, making 11 of his shots.
He finds a way to wow our team every time he goes out there. He’s just so crafty and he can score so many different ways. It’s definitely fun to watch. Shooting 8-of-9 from 3 is hard to do. It’s hard to do when you’re by yourself, much less in a game when everything is contested.
The Kings, despite having nothing to play for, didn’t make it easy for the Rockets. DeMarcus Cousins still hasn’t been shut down for the season, scored 24 points. Cousins finished with a triple double, adding 21 rebounds and 10 assists, also adding 3 steals and 6 blocks. Rudy Gay was out with a concussion, but Omri Casspi played well in his place, scoring 18 points against a former team.
Besides Harden, the Rockets didn’t need a whole lot more. Well just a little bit more, in the form of Trevor Ariza, who has been going through a lot of ups and downs in his shooting this season but overall, it seems like his addition instead of Chandler Parsons, probably a more talented offensive player, has worked out just fine for the Rockets because of his defense and the system of the team, not to mention other additions and tweaks along the way. Ariza scored 22 points.
There were more good news for the Rockets to be pleased about, like Joey Dorsey having a good game (7 points, 11 rebounds) instead of Howard or Terrence Jones playing after missing six games due to a collapsed lung and finishing with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 7 blocks. These type of contributions and their consistency will determine how far the Rockets go this season, not Harden’s greatness, as impressive as it is to watch.