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James Harden Is The Best In The West (For Now)

Photo: Steve Dykes/AP

James Harden was already the only player in the NBA this season to have put up multiple 45-point games, but he added another one last night, in a comeback 124-117 win for Houston in Portland. Harden had 48 total, including 15 points in the final seven minutes of a fourth quarter that began with his team down 14.


Here’s the filthiest moment, which arrived with his team losing by three with five minutes to go, at the end of a stretch where he scored nine straight of Houston’s points:

This was a weirder Rockets game, with the team only shooting 10-for-25 from three (they average 43.2 attempts per game), but the combination of Chris Paul, who had 26 points of his own, with Harden made the Trail Blazers helpless. Those two players outscored Portland alone, 14-11, in the last five minutes, and either scored or assisted on all but two of the Rockets’ 40 fourth quarter points. It was the most difficult contest the team has faced since Paul’s return from a knee injury, but in the end, they made it look easy and extended their nine-game winning streak.

It might be worth circling January 4 on your calendar. That’s the Rockets’ next game against the Warriors, and first since Houston’s 122-121 opening night win. It won’t truly mean anything until the postseason, but with the Rockets owning the best record in the West, they’re at least inching closer to becoming the NBA’s team to beat.

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