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Rockets: James Harden earns weekly honor again with improved defense

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

After four more wins including a showdown with Kawhi Leonard, James Harden collects his second Player of the Week award of the young season.

On Monday, it was announced that James Harden received his second Western Conference Player of the Week honor in as many weeks. The honor came as the result of another strong group of performances by the Houston Rockets as the team seems to have righted the ship after a rocky start to the season.

The Rockets went 4-0 during the week, extending their winning streak to seven, and Harden continued his torrid run by averaging 44.8 points, 6.8 assists, and 5.8 rebounds over the stretch. Moving into mid-November, Houston now sits second in the conference at 10-3.

Offense was always going to be the team’s bread and butter, but of course, having the only player to average 35 ppg in the 2010s and the guy that made you stop caring about triple-doubles in Russell Westbrook will do that. The most important improvement for Houston this week was their once putrid defense seemed to have turned things around.

Last week, Houston held opponents to 104 points per game, which is drastically improved from the 127 points per game they allowed over the first six games of the season. As ESPN’s Tim MacMahon pointed out on Twitter, The Beard was crucial to the Rockets’ defensive turnaround:

James Harden is averaging 43.0 points during the Rockets' 7-game win streak. That stat probably doesn't surprise you. This one might: The Rockets are allowing only 95.9 points/100 possessions with Harden on the floor during this run.

— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) November 17, 2019

The effort has been more consistent from everyone in the lineup including their leading man. This will remain crucial moving forward with Eric Gordon, one of the team’s top perimeter defenders, out until around the new year.

Moving forward, Harden and the Rockets have a tough week ahead. Games against the Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, LA Clippers, and Dallas Mavericks will test the team’s depth as well as how they match up with a couple of the West’s other elites.

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If Houston manages to push their win streak to 11 next Sunday, there is a very real chance we will be right back here on Monday with another “Harden: Player of the Week” headline.