It’s starting to become routine. Death, taxes, and a 40-burger from James Harden. He came into the evening averaging over 38 points per game, and with his team battling injuries, The Beard stepped it up again tonight.
Harden went for 44 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals, and he turned on the juice in the second half, breaking open a close game into a double-digit lead that eventually ended in a 111-102 Rockets victory, with the home team playing in classic ketchup and mustard unis.
Houston needed every bit from The Beard, as the Rockets were playing without Eric Gordon, Danuel House and Clint Capela. On top of that, Russell Westbrook struggled severely with his shot all night. He finished the night with just 5-21 shooting from the field, including numerous missed wide open layups. But he hit a triple with three minutes left in the game to push the Houston lead back to double digits, and his final stat line of 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists looks respectable.
Where the Rockets got a big lift was from their fill-ins. Ben McLemore had his best game of the year to this point, going for 21 points and knocking down 4 triples in the EG role, while Tyson Chandler, who was starting for Capela, played 25 minutes of action and really sparked the Houston defense, particularly in the second half and down the stretch in the fourth quarter, when the Rockets really tightened things up.
Houston also got 10 points. 5 rebounds, and 2 steals from Austin Rivers, 5 points and 12 rebounds from P.J. Tucker, and 5 points from Thabo Sefolosha, who made a defensive impact as well.
As for the Pacers, they had a balanced scoring attack led by 18 apiece from Doug McDermott and Domantas Sabonis, who also pitched in 13 boards. They also got 12 apiece from Aaron Holiday, T.J. Leaf, and T.J. McConnell and 10 from Justin Holiday.
The Rockets have now won six straight games to move to 9-3 on the season and sit near the top of the Western Conference standings. They’ve beaten two pretty good teams back to back, even with injuries, and look to be rounding into form on both sides of the ball.
They can obviously score, but now that they’re proving they can get stops too, this is a whole different squad.
They’ll be back in action tomorrow night, as they head north to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves, another team with a winning record, and this time, they’ll also be without Westbrook, who will be sitting for load management.
That’ll leave the scoring burden entirely on number 13, and I have no doubt that win, lose , or draw, Harden will step up. Death, taxes, and 40 burgers. The only sure things in life.