The Los Angeles Clippers traveled to Houston to play the James Harden led Rockets, who proceeded to score 47 points to improve the Rockets record to 8-3 and place them as the second seed in the Western Conference.
Last season, Harden was the MVP runner-up to Giannis Antetokounmpo, while Harden averaged 36.1 points per game. Even with the addition of Russell Westbrook, Harden hasn’t slowed down the scoring, averaging 38.2 points per game on only 36.5 minutes per game.
The Clippers are currently underperforming on defense, ranking as the 10th best defense in the league this season. Nevertheless, the team has Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverly and other capable defenders to throw at teams. Once Paul George is completely healthy, this team is built for the postseason.
But last night, Harden exposed that defense, scoring 47 points on 12-26 shooting from the field and 7-13 shooting from the three-point line. The Clippers game marks the fifth straight game that Harden has scored at least 30 points. For the season, Harden has scored under 30 points just twice in 11 games, with Harden having 29 points on both of those occasions.
Even with Beverly hounding Harden all night, the Rockets guard was able to consistently score, even after Beverly fouled out in the fourth quarter and Leonard was put on him.
Westbrook added 17 points, providing scoring help for Harden, who spent all of last season carrying the burden of the Rockets offense. Now with a guard who’s capable of scoring, the Rockets are far more dangerous than prior seasons.
The question still remains about Harden’s conditioning and overall mental fortitude come playoff time. Every season, Harden runs out of gas in the postseason. With the addition of Westbrook, the duo can now take turns controlling the offense.