For the fifth time in nine games, James Harden finished with 30-plus points. His latest outing helped the Houston Rockets improve to 5-3 on the season with a comfortable 129-112 win over the short-handed Golden State Warriors.
So far this season, the Rockets are 4-1 when Harden scores 30 or more.
🚀 @JHarden13 erupts for 36 PTS, 13 AST, 3 STL, 3 BLK as the @HoustonRockets take care of business at home! #OneMission pic.twitter.com/eACttXkJv5- NBA (@NBA) November 7, 2019
For more on this contest, here are a few takeaways...
James Harden continues hot start
Coming into this game, Harden was the league's leading-scorer at 36.6 points per game. His 36 against the Warriors will help him keep that position with Kyrie Irving at second with 31.1. His 13 assists are his second-most this season, but it's only the second time this season that he has finished with more than 10 assists.
Harden's average of 16.1 free-throw attempts (prior to the game) is mighty close to WIlt Chamberlain's single-season record. He nearly reached that mark in this game, attempting 13 and making 10 of them (76.9%). His three steals and three blocks are all season-highs.
He started this game slow but then erupted for 20 in the second quarter (including 13 straight team points at one point), helping the Rockets outscore the Warriors 33-23 in the period.
Beard dropped 20 in the 2nd quarter 🔥 pic.twitter.com/OHQ9JNme41- Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) November 7, 2019
To start this 2019-20 season, the Beard might not be as efficient as he was last year but he certainly putting big numbers, and today's contest against the Warriors was no different.
With his 36 points, Harden has the most points through 8 games to start a season (292) since Michael Jordan put up 302 to begin the 1988-89 season. In the past two games, he has made 13 3-pointers on 40.6 % shooting. Made 21.5 % in first six games.- Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) November 7, 2019
Has the Rockets' defense taken a turn?
Prior to this game, the Rockets averaged the third-most points and ranked sixth in offensive rating. On that side of the court, the franchise was in full form once again.
Against the Warriors, they shot 48-of-97 (49.5%) from the field, knocked down 21 3-pointers (21-of-45 - 46.7%) while only committing 13 turnovers and assisting on 22 of their 38 made field goals. All five starters plus Austin Rivers finished in double figures scoring.
It was their issues on the other end of the floor that everybody was talking about. Heading into this game, Houston ranked 28th in defensive efficiency.
Was restricting the Warriors to 112 points, tied for the second-least the Rockets have allowed this season, a sign of their defense coming to together or was it the Warriors failing to make wide-open shots? Only time will tell.
Clint Capela recorded six blocks to go along with his double-double of 19 points and 16 rebounds in 36 minutes.
.@CapelaClint 🚫 X2 pic.twitter.com/Is1MVzj4jB- Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) November 7, 2019
Warriors compete but Rockets' 2nd Q run opens up the game
The injury bug has hit the reigning Western Conference champions HARD.
In this game against the Rockets, they were playing without Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and D'Angelo Russell - all 2019 All-Stars.
Yet, the rest of the roster, which includes nine new faces, competed. Shots weren't falling but the team didn't beat themselves, only committing 13 turnovers.
If it wasn't for the 21-6 run by the Rockets over the last 4:30 minutes of the first half, the Warriors could have kept the game interesting in the second half.
Alec Burks was the Warriors' top-scorer with 28 points (10-18 FGs) off the bench.
Russell Westbrook passes Cousy in bounce-back game
In his last game, against the Miami Heat, Russell Westbrook was a team-worst -46 in their 29-point loss.
After resting the team's previous game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Westbrook returned to the lineup and had a much better outing.
Playing 30 minutes, the former MVP didn't have to do much but finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, six assists and a team-best +40.
Early in the fourth quarter, he moved past Bob Cousy on the all-time assists charts.
.@russwest44 passes Bob Cousy for 19th all-time in assists. pic.twitter.com/StSefpq3so- Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) November 7, 2019
He was seen limping as he was coming off the court in the fourth quarter but after the game, he clarified that it was nothing.