Time zones are weird. Here on the East Coast, the Houston Rockets had a really, really lousy February 25th, and it was all James Harden’s fault; on the West Coast, it turned out okay, all thanks to James Harden.
When halftime arrived in last night’s game in Portland, at around 11:50 EST, the Rockets were down by 15 and well on their way to falling a half-game behind the Utah Jazz for the West’s 8th playoff seed. They looked like listless shit, and if you wanted to blame James Harden for it, you had ample ammunition. To that point he’d recorded a measly 12 points on 13 shots, was a gruesome 1-for-6 from three, and had turned the ball over four times; worse than that, a report by CBS Sports’s Ken Berger earlier in the day had identified him as the driving force behind both coach Kevin McHale’s firing back in November and last week’s failed efforts to trade away Dwight Howard. The team’s CEO denied that claim prior to last night’s game, but even so, probably it did not do wonders for locker-room bonhomie!
Feb. 25 had been over for a few minutes on the East Coast by the time Portland’s C.J. McCollum hit a three-pointer to put the Rockets down by 21, with 9:38 to go in the third quarter. Not gonna lie, here: I turned the game off and went to bed a few moments later, after quite literally muttering “Jesus, what a shitty day for the Rockets” to myself, like an idiot.
A few minutes later, James Harden went nuts.
Skip to 0:46 if it doesn’t start there. Video via NBA on YouTube.
Over the game’s final 19 minutes, Harden scored 34 points. He hit 11 of 12 field goal attempts, nine of his 10 free-throws, all three of his three-pointers. He outscored the Blazers by five points, by himself. He hit driving, contested layups; step-back jumpers; pull-up threes; a tomahawk dunk off a hard baseline cut. Poor Allen Crabbe worked like hell defending him, played him beautifully, and it did not matter even one little bit:
When it was over, a 21-point deficit had become a 14-point win, the Rockets had overtaken the Jazz in the standings, Harden had played one of his best games of the season ... and it was still Feb. 25 in Portland. He’d saved the day! And I fucking missed it, like an asshole, again.
Top photo via AP