James Harden and Rockets End 2018 with a Bang

James Harden and Rockets End 2018 with a Bang

By: Caleb J. Duncan

Do you remember that one time when James Harden won MVP? If not, he reminded you on Monday night when he notched his fourth triple-double of the season against division rival Memphis Grizzlies.

Harden scored 43 points with 13 assists and 10 rebounds with his final rebound coming in the closing seconds of the game. Gerald Green was effective from behind the arc, going 6-11 with 18 points (all of his attempts were from the 3 point line). On a night where Eric Gorden was held out due to a bruised knee, Rockets newcomer, and former thorn-in-the-side-of-Chris-Paul Austin Rivers started the game and scored 12 points. Clint Capela finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds while Danuel House Jr. went 4-6 from the 3 point line and ended with 16 points. Chris Paul and James Ennis III remained sidelined with hamstring issues.

This win was not anything new for the Rockets as they have rebounded from the early season slump to move to 21-15 on the season and have won 10 of their last 11 games. They also have gone undefeated at home in the month of December. After pushing Carmelo Anthony to the side earlier this season it looked like the 2018-2019 season for the Rockets was over before it even began, but they have answered critics with their new record and sit 5th in the Western Conference and they are only 3 games outside of first place. While they are not quite the same team they were last season they are certainly doing their best impression of that team.

Screenshot 2018-12-31 at 10.09.16 PM
Elizabeth Conley/Houston Chronicle

With Chris Paul sidelined for the past 5 games James Harden has stepped up in a big way and is making a case for a repeat MVP title. He set an NBA record with his 8th consecutive game going for 35+ points and 5 rebounds, beating Oscar Robertson who had seven. Another interesting record Harden may be proud to hear is that he is one of 3 players in the past 30 years to score 400 points in the span of 10 games. The other two? Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. While Harden did turn the ball over 9 times tonight he has done well to make up for turnovers with brutal offensive efficiency. In fact, this is his fourth straight game with 40+ points. Here are Harden’s point totals for the past 10 games:

12/13 – 50 pts.
12/15 – 32 pts. (another triple-double against Memphis)
12/17 – 47 pts.
12/19 – 35 pts.
12/20 – 35 pts.
12/22 – 39 pts.
12/25 – 41 pts.
12/27 – 45 pts.
12/29 – 41 pts.
12/31 – 43 pts.

With Chris Paul injuries once again plaguing the Rockets, Houston will need MVP Harden every chance they get with such a competitive Western Conference this season. It’s clear that the loss of Trevor Ariza had a bigger impact than the Rockets thought it would and the addition of Carmelo Anthony seems to have been just a bit of bad luck for both the team and Anthony. It may be too early to tell if those roster moves will play a relevant impact come playoffs, but the Rockets are starting to distance themselves from who they were two months ago.

The Rockets schedule for January is tough as they face the Warriors, Trail Blazers, Nuggets, Bucks, Lakers, 76ers and Raptors throughout the month. All of these teams, much like the Rockets, are in their groove and playing good basketball so the Rockets will need Chris Paul back as soon as possible to contribute. Until then, James Harden will just have to keep doing what he’s been doing.

Featured Image – Troy Taormina/USA Today

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