It occurred sooner than common on Friday evening. Textual content messages and social media posts started flying from fan to fan at roughly eight:30 p.m. ET.
“Harden’s scorching. He is bought 27.”
By this level, it was already the center of the NBA night. Many assumed it was first-half information, to which the reply could not sort itself quick sufficient.
“No, no… within the first quarter.”
It was true. James Harden had already burned the beforehand scorching Spurs for 27 factors within the sport’s first 12 minutes. But whilst he scored “simply” 10 and 9 factors within the second and third quarters, respectively, the Spurs’ collective appeared on the verge of overcoming Houston’s Kia MVP candidate.
Then Harden buckled in for yet one more surge, a fourth-quarter push that included this back-breaking banker to place Houston up three after they trailed by as many as 19 within the second half.
Behind Harden’s 61 factors, Houston pulled away for the 111-105 win.
Like his signature step-back Three-pointer, that game-swinging banker is a horrible shot for anybody however Harden, simply as his load distribution would appear horrible for any group however Houston. His utilization ranking towards the Spurs was 53.7 % — the fourth time he is exceeded 50 % in 2018-19. Klay Thompson is the one different participant to shoulder greater than 50 % utilization in a sport this season.
That, in a nutshell, will likely be Harden’s MVP case to voters in simply three brief weeks. He’s the Rockets’ Atlas, solely he is scoring 60-plus with the large ball as an alternative of merely carrying it. Friday’s 61-point efficiency (mixed together with his 57-point particular on Wednesday) punctuated that picture, one supported by a stream of spectacular stats, details and brief lists. Amongst them:
Harden is now the primary participant to attain 50-plus in back-to-back video games twice in the identical season since Wilt ChamberlainMichael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Chamberlain or the one gamers in NBA historical past to match or exceed Harden’s 118 complete factors in a two-game spanHarden additionally joins Jordan, Bryant and Chamberlain as the one gamers with a number of 60-point video games in a seasonHarden handed Joe Johnson for 10th all-time in made 3sHis 61 factors ties 1) his personal career-high and a couple of) Houston’s franchise document for factors in a gameHarden’s 61 factors had been essentially the most ever scored towards the Spurs
Everybody will take discover, if for various causes. Harden supporters and detractors will scream level and counterpoint to one another whereas voters scramble to search out the reality beneath the noise. The Bucks felt compelled to remind the NBA world of their very own MVP candidate simply minutes after Houston’s win:
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 23, 2019
Till the votes are solid and their outcomes made, merely marveling over Harden’s historic shot-making must be sufficient.
Trigger and impact
Coming into Friday’s motion, 4 groups had been tied within the Western Convention playoff image, whereas the underside of the East was nonetheless very a lot up for grabs. This is a short take a look at what occurred and the ripple-effect within the standings:
Magic 123, Grizzlies 119
Orlando averted disaster with a late-game comeback earlier than eking out the win in OT. A four-game profitable streak has the Magic only a half-game out of the eighth and ultimate playoff spot out East.
Clippers 110, Cavaliers 108
L.A.’s playoff-bound group additionally averted embarrassment, overcoming a sluggish first-half to in the end edge the league’s third-worst group. Mixed with the Spurs’ loss to Houston, the win was sufficient to push the Clippers to a tie for fifth with Oklahoma Metropolis.
Nuggets 111, Knicks 93
By rapidly dispatching the lottery-bound Knicks, Denver re-established a tie for first with Golden State. The Nuggets have misplaced two of three to the Warriors this season making their April 2 assembly a must-win for tiebreaker functions.
Thunder 116, Raptors 109
Oklahoma Metropolis snapped its four-game skid by erasing a 13-point, third-quarter deficit and in some way beating the Raptors in Toronto. The unimaginable effort noticed OKC stay in a tie for fifth, besides now they share the identical document (43-30) with just one group (the Clippers) as an alternative of three.
The Raptors, in the meantime, noticed their odds of overtaking first-place Milwaukee drop considerably. Toronto trails the Bucks by three full video games with simply 9 remaining.
Rockets 111, Spurs 105
Harden’s eruption gave Houston a treasured sport’s value of respiration room in third place, simply forward of Portland. The end result was felt additional down the identical West standings, the place San Antonio fell to eighth place now that they personal yet one more loss than the seventh-place Jazz.
Bucks 116, Warmth 87
Milwaukee is within the driver’s seat for first place out East, whereas the Warmth’s cushion for eighth is now a razor-thin half-game over Orlando.
Nets 111, Lakers 106
Brooklyn now holds a wholesome two-game lead over Miami for the seventh spot and is only a half-game again of idle Detroit for sixth place. As for the Lakers…
D’Angelo Russell’s NBA turnaround got here full circle on Friday when Brooklyn visited the franchise that made him considered one of their three consecutive No. 2 general picks — and the one one the Lakers determined not to maintain.
Now totally reworked from Laker outcast to Nets All-Star, Russell took benefit of the last word alternative: the prospect to formally get rid of his former group from playoff competition. The 6-foot-Three guard did not let the event go him by, placing up 21 factors and 13 assists as Brooklyn hammered the ultimate nail into L.A.’s lottery coffin.
Talking of profession arcs, none is likely to be stranger than that of JaVale McGee. The 7-foot-1 massive man went from absurdly proficient first-round decide to a well-paid starter to NBA outcast earlier than curving again to significant position participant over the past three seasons.
Now with the Lakers, the previous Shaqtin’ A Idiot MVP put up Shaq-like numbers towards the Nets: 33 factors, 20 rebounds and 6 blocks. We may embrace any variety of his 15 area targets as an example how he dominated inside, however maybe his shot chart offers you a greater thought.
By the top of the evening, McGee had grow to be the primary Laker to place up a 30-point, 20-rebound, five-block sport since… you guessed it, Shaquille O’Neal. The duo joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the one Lakers ever to document a 30-20-5.
That is not it
In the event you attempt to fail to take a cost on Giannis Antetokounmpo, he’ll let you recognize about it.
Keep in mind your roots
March is a defining month for faculty basketball, and the moments therein reside on lengthy after the celebs transfer onto the professionals. Dwyane Wade isn’t any exception, and the Warmth’s go to to Milwaukee supplied the proper timing and placement to recollect his electrical time at Marquette.
Marquette’s personal D-Wade bought a particular tribute video and a standing ovation from the Milwaukee crowd. ⚡️🙌#OneLastDancepic.twitter.com/gX0uVYkDKF
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) March 23, 2019