Fresh out of a forced four-day quarantine that followed weeks of wanting to be hit in the headlines, Houston Rockets superstar James Harden He had a Saturday Night show that reminded people of why he’s a permanent MVP candidate.
It just wasn’t quite enough to hold the short-handed Houston team, losing six players due to positive tests for COVID-19 and contact tracing, to a late season opener for the Rockets.
Harden scored 44 points and 17 assists as he played 43 minutes in the 128-126 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. The only flaw in Harden’s streak in the penalty area score was his four turns, including one in the final seconds defeated, when the Blazers were attacking. Robert Covington He stole a pass after Harden led down the lane and attempted to introduce him to his teammate.
“Everything was fine,” Harden said of his performance, which included 12 of 22 shots from the ground and 6 of 13 from a range of 3 points. “Too many transitions. But other than that, the first game of 40 minutes, I feel my conditioning could be better, of course, but it was very strong. I think we let them get away from us.”
The Rockets’ season-opening match scheduled for Wednesday was postponed because Houston did not have a minimum of eight players. The National Basketball Association ruled that Harden was not available for that game for violating the league’s health and safety protocols by attending a private indoor party on Monday, resulting in Harden being fined $ 50,000.
The Rockets made the trip to Oregon with only nine players. New starting point guard John Wall The Rockets’ best three bench players Eric GordonAnd the Cousins of DeMarcus And the Ben Maclemore Among the Houston players currently in quarantine.
“I’m proud of the way we fought,” said Stephen Silas, Rockets coach. “Obviously we have some things that we need to clean up. But overall, I am very proud of this group and how they fought under the conditions.”
Harden has eliminated any doubt he would compete on the field as the Rockets front office patiently explored the commercial market in search of a package that represented fair value for a historically distinguished player in his prime.
Harden dominated the dealer role – and provided seven of his passes into the center Christian Wood, Who scored 31 points and 13 rebounds on his debut for the Rockets – while participating in the scoring duel with the Blazers shooter CJ McCollum. As Harden said, McCollum was “on fire” after a slow start, as he also finished with 44 points, on 17 of 30 shots.
McCollum scored 3 with 6.9 seconds remaining in overtime which proved to be the winner when Harden failed to fire a shot on final possession. Harden had a disputed three-paced pair back – first to level, second to lead – on the two previous Rockets’ holdings.
“James is really good,” said McCollum. “Whatever James does in his spare time, James is really good at basketball. Like, he’s really good.”