There’s not really a good way to butter up last night’s loss. Normally, there’s some kind of silver lining or a moral victory that comes with games like that, but not last night. The San Antonio Spurs aptly reminded the Houston Rockets that the cute little three game winning streak they had won’t matter come playoffs. The Spurs were clearly the better team and it was a bad night for Houston fans no matter how you look at it.
So, to save us all the tears, let’s focus on other things. James Harden (except not really last night) as been playing his best basketball of the season as of late. The Beard had two triple-doubles in three games recently, and is the second leading scorer and the ninth leading assist man in the game. If the rest of the team can match his production, the Rockets might be a formidable opponent in the postseason after all.
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I am firmly of the belief that Harden consistently does not get the credit he deserves. He is seen as a sub-superstar because of his sometimes-ugly style of play. Critics love to hate on his foul-drawing strategies and argue that it isn’t good for the game. I staunchly disagree, believing that he’s a genius for finding a way to shoot the most effective shot in basketball (the free throw) more times than anyone else. Anyway, according to Maxwell Ogden of HoopsHabit.com, Harden has cracked the top ten in player rankings for the first time this season. I think he should be top five, but I’ll leave it be. Check out the list here: NBA Player Power Rankings: Has Stephen Curry Won MVP Yet?
James Harden had one of his best weeks of the 2015-16 NBA regular season, and the Houston Rockets followed suit. It was yet another illustration of how Harden is responsible for the outcome of most games he plays in a Rockets uniform.
That’s an intriguing sign of his value, but Houston’s 25-23 record is also a reflection of how inconsistent Harden has been.
Harden opened the week with 30 points and eight assists on 9-of-15 shooting in a 102-98 victory over the surging Milwaukee Bucks. He then posted 23 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists during a win over the Dallas Mavericks, and had 35 points, 11 rebounds, and eight dimes in a 112-111 escape of the New Orleans Pelicans.
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Surely, from any perspective, a man in the top ten players in the league (and therefore, the world) should have a spot reserved in the All-Star game. I’ve made the said it a hundred times, but there’s no way James Harden shouldn’t get to play. Even if someone wanted to make the argument that he’s too much of an isolation player and isn’t good to his teammates, it wouldn’t add up; isolation embarrass-the-other-guy play is exactly what the All-Star game is about. In all honesty, he should be starting over Kobe Bryant, but we’ll let Mamba say his goodbyes with no hard feelings. Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated wrote SI’s 2016 NBA All-Star Game reserves and wisely chose the Beard as the backup two-guard for the West. Surely he’s correct.
"No other player this season can match his 27 ppg / 7 apg / 6 rpg production this season, and the only two players to put up those numbers for a full season in the last decade are LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. With the Rockets back above .500 and climbing up to the No. 7 spot in offensive efficiency, there’s no way to leave him out."
I know what you’re thinking: Ben, feature an article about somebody other than James Harden; he’s not the only guy on the team. My response to that notion is, well, no. As a Rockets fan, I have to be a huge fan of the guy. With Howard out (thank God he’s back) and the rest of the team playing inconsistently, he’s been shining brightly in Houston. That being said, here’s an exclusive interview he did with Max Croes of The Dream Shake. Covers everything from basketball to sports drinks to Star Wars. Exclusive: James Harden on Star Wars, J.J. Watt and the disappointing Rockets.
: Daryl Morey said last week ‘
.’ Is that a statement you agree with?
Harden: Yeah. I mean, the playoffs obviously is where the best players come out. Obviously we’re not doing so well in the regular season, a lot of inconsistency, but I think we’ll hit our stride. I think a lot of teams have hit their strides already and we haven’t hit ours, which is a good thing. As the season go on and we get a feel for each other, good things are gonna start to happen. And hopefully we’re gonna hit our peak right around playoffs.
Houston’s got a rough schedule coming up, with games against streaking Oklahoma City Thunder and the invincible Golden State Warriors over the next two weeks (not to mention that 14 of their next 20 will be road games). I know I’ve said this before, but if there’s any time left this season to round the corner, now would be as good as ever. If James Harden and company can work their way up to the sixth seed by playoffs, this season could still be interesting.
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