James Harden’s Fourth Straight Trip-Dub Pushes Rockets Past Nuggets
By Ben Casey
The Houston Rockets didn’t shoot the ball well on Saturday in Denver, but James Harden’s heroics saved the game with his fourth straight triple-double.
It’s possible that James Harden heard talk of someone else getting crowned MVP and decided to do something about it. Saturday night against the Nuggets, the Beard put up his fourth consecutive triple-double, finishing with 40 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds. This led to a Houston Rockets road win on the second night of a back-to-back. Whether the MVP discussions were his motivation or not, he’s played some of the best basketball of his entire career over the past few days.
Houston’s match-up against the Nuggets was a back and forth affair. At various points in game, both teams seemed to be in control on both ends of the floor. Eventually, behind Harden’s extraordinary play, the Rockets pulled out a close one.
After trailing by as many as eight just before the break, the Beard took over in the third quarter. He poured in 18 of his 40 points during that period, including the final 16 points of the quarter for Houston. He became unstoppable, hitting threes and getting into the lane at ease. By the mid-point of the third frame, he had the Rockets up by six, a 14-point turnaround in about eight minutes. The Rockets never trailed after that, holding on by a thread to finish it out.
James Harden isn’t the only one who helped the Rockets win, though. Denver’s Will Barton was atrocious throughout, shooting just 2/13 and 1/9 from three. He had an opportunity to be the hero for the Nuggets, but couldn’t capitalize on a couple of easy shots within the final minute.
The Rockets dealt fairly well with Denver’s well-balanced scoring attack. They allowed seven players to finish with double figures in points but no opponent scored more than 17. The Nuggets’ best player on the night was Jameer Nelson, who put up a solid line of 15 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds.
Other than James Harden putting on an MVP-worthy show, the story from this contest was Houston’s poor shooting. Before Ryan Anderson connected with about five minutes left in the third quarter, the Rockets had just one made three on the night. Overall, the team barely shot over 20% from the arc. Denver did a great job of running Houston off the three-point line–their 24 attempts (and five makes) marked the fewest of the season.
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Another notable event of the night was James Harden taking a hard fall. With less than a minute left in the third, Harden fouled Mason Plumlee. The collision caused the Beard to lose his footing, sending him crashing to the ground.
After about 30 seconds of terror for Rockets fans, Harden got up and shook off the pain. He remained in the game, easing Red Nation’s worry.
With the win, the Rockets move up to within five games of the Spurs in the standings while distancing themselves five games from the fourth-seeded Jazz. The Nuggets, on the other hand, loosened their grip on the eighth seed, now only 1.5 games ahead of Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers.
After one day’s rest, the Rockets and Nuggets will face off again in Houston. Mike D’Antoni will certainly do a bit of game planning before then; he’ll want his guys to be able to rely on their famed three-point shot.
With just 12 games remaining in the regular season, the Rockets look pretty locked in at the third seed. Whether they’ll face the Clippers, Thunder, or Jazz, is yet to be determined, with one game separating the fifth-seventh seeds.
Next: Tackling the Two-Way Impact Argument for MVP
Stay tuned to Space City Scoop as the playoffs draw nearer for postseason predictions, analysis, and opinions.
Standings are accurate as of March 19th, 2017.