Everyone knew this would be a physical game, seeing that the last game between these two ended up in fisticuffs between a few players. This game lived up to the hype that surrounded it and then some. It was a physical game for all 48 minutes. There were four technical fouls, and the referees’ whistles got plenty of use. But the game came to down to a James vs. James battle, and the James that wore the snake print suit to the game had a historic night.
Guard James Harden had a night to remember. His stat line is mind-boggling to say the least. 50 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, two steals, 54% shooting from the field and 18-for-19 from the free throw line. Just about every adjective you can think of can explain how amazing Harden was in this game. Without him, they do not have a chance at winning this.
Harden had support from the bench as newly re-signed two-way player Danuel House Jr. had a big night with 15 points off the bench. It’s encouraging to see, as he wasn’t even on the roster on opening night, but he is now giving this team nearly 30 minutes a game and performing well in critical moments. The Rockets are desperate for depth at the wing position; luckily, they may have found a diamond in the rough with House to provide a spark and a scoring punch off the bench.
What remains worrisome for the Rockets is the way point guard Chris Paul is shooting the ball; it’s a problem that has haunted this team for most of the season. In last night’s game, he was 3-for-10 from the field and 0-for-6 from inside the 3-point line. When the Rockets traded for Paul, everyone mentioned how he was one of the deadliest mid-range shooters in the NBA. The Rockets will need him to return to last year’s form if they want a chance to return to prominence in the playoffs this year.
It was also exciting to see Brandon Knight’s first action since February 2017. Nearly two years after his injury, Knight made his return to the court tonight. While he only played three minutes in the contest, it is still a positive sign for the Rockets, who can use an infusion of talent from any position it can get.
The Rockets’ next game against the Memphis Grizzlies tips off at 7 p.m. on Saturday. We’ll see if this momentum can continue for the Rockets, and whether they can get back to .500 for the season.
All stats courtesy of NBA Advanced Stats