HOUSTON – You came to the James Harden experience and you got … Kenneth Faried. Do you want a value supply? Purchased by Brooklyn, Faried entered the Rockets start line this week. He had eight rebounds in the first quarter against Toronto, finishing 14 and collecting 21 points with them.
You came to the Harden show and got … P.J. Tucker. Houston's designated three-point defense / corner player was as announced and struck in four first fifties, who scored 18 points in total in the Rockets & # 39; wire-to-wire, 121-119 win.
James who? Fresh from a 61
Here comes Houston, and really, what should we do about Rockets right now? Friday's victory put Houston in a game of Portland to No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. A season that began with chemical problems seemed to be the chattering of an injury in mid-December to Chris Paul, and has been revived by a historic offensive outbreak of Harden's life again.
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Suddenly, Rockets-who will welcome Paul to the lineup on Sunday – look like competitors.
"We never lost our trust," Green told The Crossover. "We always thought we would get it right."
To see the Harden is to observe an athlete at his artistic top. The figures cheat Harden. Look at a state map and you will assume that Harden is a ball-like chucker. He made only five of his 20 steps against the Knicks and finished 2-of-13 from deep into Toronto. He needed 25 trips to the free throw line to get his 61 points in New York. Watch a game and you see something else. You see a playmaker probing defense, looking to make the right game. He has his moments, early in the shot clock, three-point launches that make you hug. But Harden had seven assists on Friday, and if not for a few missing open shots, would have added a few more. He averages 8.3 aids in the season, just behind Russell Westbrook and Kyle Lowry in that category.
"James would rather not score points," Green said, "and see us win."
And respectful look at who he does it with. Kevin Durant has Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Russell Westbrook has Paul George. On Friday, the damaged rockets started a couple of recent buyouts (Faried, Austin Rivers), a defensive specialist (Tucker) and Eric Gordon along with Harden.
"I've played with some great players, never seen anyone doing what he's doing," Green told The Crossover. "He must do so very out there. He scores, he passes by, he leads us all where we go. Everyone with defense locked in on him and a defender over him. That's really something."
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Harden has entered the MVP mix, and the Rockets have reinforced him. Faried? Faried has been a shell of High Energy Manimal who terrorized opponents in Denver years ago. He has fought injuries for the past few seasons and was largely attached to Brooklyn's bench. In Houston, Faried told team members: I think I can revive my career here. And he has gobbling up rebounds and dunking home dump offs from the harden around the rim. In the fourth quarter, with the game still in doubt, Faried missed a free kick. And with the ball ping-ponging around the rim, he outworked three Raptors players to get to it when it came out.
"With him and PJ we have two guys to fight inside," Rocket's trainer Mike D "said Antoni." He gave us the athleticism we need. "
And rivers? Transported by Washington , published by Phoenix, experiencing rivers his own revival in Houston, his defensive mindset has been welcomed ("I and PJ are fighting over who to protect sometimes," said Rivers), and he has embraced D & # 39; Antoni's green light and Struggled up with a career-high 6.3-point try per game.
Paul returns Sunday and the timing could not be better.Harden is a tireless employee, ready to play in every game, but Rockets remembers the picture of a worn-out hardship battles in the second round of playoffs, Paul will alleviate some of that burden and preserve Harden for the off-season.
And when they get there, defense remains a question, For all their offensive firepower were the rockets a top 10 defense last season and they must rediscover it identity, Houston squeezed in the second half of last season, ranking third in defensive efficiency over the last 45 games. Faried's versatility should help, change, rebound, fill the Clint Capela size hole for a few weeks longer.
But the opportunity is there. The harden has been electrifying, with a speed of use just a shadow behind Westbrook's record setting number (41.65) in its MVP season. If Paul can stay healthy – always a question until he does – Houston looks like a contender.