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Harden notches first triple double of season in win over 76ers

New year, same Rockets.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

James Harden posted perhaps his strongest stat line of the season Friday night in the Rockets’ 118-108 win over the 76ers.

The Beard donned a new look for the new year, sporting cornrows and a headband, and it could be a lucky omen for the MVP, as he posted his first triple-double of the season. Harden finished the game scoring 44 points on 13-24 shooting, dishing 11 dimes and grabbing 11 boards.

The Rockets looked to be heading in a different direction after the first quarter, scoring just 20 points against a staunch Philadelphia defense. But the Rockets were able to bounce back in the second quarter, doubling their first quarter total with a 40-burger in the second.

Harden was a big part of the Rockets’ turnaround, but so was Clint Capela, who played in his best game of the season. Capela scored a season-high 30 (one shy of a career-high) while grabbing 14 boards.

A big key to the Rockets’ game plan was rebounding, and the team succeeded, out-rebounding the best rebounding team in the league 46-44.

Capela’s play was remarkable tonight and will be overshadowed by Harden’s dominance. However, we need to give Capela his due. Tonight’s game was the image of what the Rockets have had in their minds since they drafted him in 2014. This was peak Capela.

If Capela can play like this moving forward, the Rockets’ ceiling rises and it is promising to see him play like this against one of the biggest teams in the league.

Capela’s number was called tonight thanks to Joel Embiid often coming up to double Harden after he got past the first defender.

With Embiid committing to Harden, Capela was given the window necessary for the lob from Harden, which contributed to his high assist total and Capela’s high point total.

The negatives from the game came with Russell Westbrook and his 9-22 shooting. He still ended with 20 points and was not a liability, but it was not his best showing as a Rocket.

Eric Gordon also shot a dismal 3-13 from the field. It’s only Gordon’s third game back from injury, and it is promising that he was able to play 30 minutes tonight. EG ended with 12 points.

If you combine Harden, Capela, Westbrook and Gordon, the rest of the team scored just 12 points. It’s alarming, but when Capela and Harden were as good as they were tonight, the scoring depth is not as necessary.

For the opposition, Ben Simmons had a triple-double of his own with 29 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, but it was not enough for the Sixers, who lost their fourth straight game.

For the Rockets, it’s the second straight convincing win at full strength against a playoff-caliber team. Tonight, a pattern formed and it’s a sign for optimism.

The Rockets now enjoy four days off and won’t suit up until Wednesday when the team visits the Hawks. Tipoff is at 6:30 p.m. CT.