Chris Paul played well in his return from injury against the Magic, but it was James Harden that carried the Rockets to a comeback win.
After sitting out 17 games to rest his ailing hamstring, Chris Paul finally made his return on Sunday night against the Magic.
The Rockets were expected to limit Paul’s minutes to the “mid 20s” as he works his way back into game shape. Paul played 25 minutes against Orlando, finishing with 12 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals.
Paul looked like his usual self, running off of screens and weaving through the defense, pulling up for mid-range shots, knocking down a side step 3-pointer and poking balls loose on defense. Of course, he got his teammates easy looks too. Three of his six assists resulted in Kenneth Faried dunks and the remaining assists resulted in three 3-pointers.
As a team, the Rockets got off to another slow start, trailing 34-16 after the first quarter. Houston slowly fought their way back all game, but every time they closed in on Orlando’s lead, the Magic would force a turnover or nail a 3-pointer to keep themselves ahead.
A layup from P.J. Tucker with 4:13 remaining put Houston up 93-92, giving them their first lead of the game. With 1:15 left in regulation, James Harden’s 3-pointer put the Rockets ahead 98-95. On the next possession, Harden drove left and then stopped on a dime, causing Evan Fournier to lose his balance. The Beard nailed a rare mid range jumper, putting the Rockets ahead by five points with just 30 seconds remaining, all but sealing the game.
On the next possession, the Magic tried to score quickly, but Harden rejected Fournier’s layup attempt, giving him his third block of the game. The Rockets won 103-98.
James Harden finished with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists. He has now scored at least 30 points in 23 consecutive games, joining Wilt Chamberlain as the only player in NBA history to do so.
Kenneth Faried finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists in 36 minutes. Faried has scored at least 10 points in every game with the Rockets and he has quickly become a large and important part of Houston’s rotation with Clint Capela out.