James Harden and the Rockets earned their fourth straight victory Saturday night as they defeated the New York Knicks 129-122 to close out 2016. The Rockets won 15 of 17 games in the month of December and have themselves well-positioned as they head into 2017.
Right from the very start, you could tell Harden was going to have an incredible night, even though the rest of the Rockets started out slow. In fact, the Knicks had a lead all throughout the first and second half of the second quarter. When Harden returned in the second quarter, the Rockets went on a run that gave them the lead for the rest of the game. Their 42-point second quarter put them up 14 points at halftime. Harden was one rebound shy of a triple-double before halftime with 24 points, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds.
The Knicks, however, deserve credit for hanging in this game. They were without two starters in Kristaps Porzingis and Courtney Lee, and Carmelo Anthony only played 18 minutes, but Brandon Jennings’ 32 points and Joakim Noah’s double-double kept New York in the game. After getting eaten alive in the second quarter, they won the third quarter by 7 and cut the Rockets’ lead in half.
However, in the fourth quarter, Mike D’Antoni brought Harden off the bench with roughly nine minutes to go. Normally, he comes back in with six minutes to go if the game is tight, but D’Antoni knew he had the hot hand, and he went to his superstar to get the job done. Nobody in NBA history has eclipsed 50 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists in a game. Today, he scored 53 (a career-high), 17 assists (tied career-high) and 16 rebounds. These are the kind of numbers you may see in a video game, but Harden is rewriting the history books and paving the way for his own history in the NBA.
The Rockets won tonight simply because there was too much James and too many threes for the Knicks to handle. The Rockets made 21 threes as a team, and Harden made nine (another career-high). The supporting cast also did their job tonight. Ryan Anderson had 25, Ariza had 14 points and 7 boards, and Eric Gordon had 15 off the bench. There will be nights where the Rockets simply out-offense their opponent, and that’s why you gotta love this team. The sky’s the limit this year for the Rockets and hopefully they will be able to ride this momentum into the new year.
From everybody at the Dream Shake, we wish you a very Happy New Year and may Harden repeat these numbers in 2017 (We can only hope!) The first game of 2017 is on Monday, January 2nd, as the Rockets host the Wizards. Tipoff is at 7 PM CT.