NBA Daily: Harden fuels Rockets (again), Luka Doncic's triple-double, Celtics' bounce-back victory
Is there a better player than James Harden in NBA right now?
You have to feel sorry for the defenders going against James Harden. A crossover, a feint, a hesitation and suddenly the 'bearded beast' is celebrating another basket. His efforts in the opposition D reminds you of an old BBC tagline - you blink, you missed it.
All that with a sheepish grace that you'd associate with a Hugh Grant character in a romantic comedy than an elite level basketball player in the world's best league.
Harden wasn't the only star on Monday night though. Dallas Mavericks' Luka Doncic invoked his inner LeBron James with historic 42-point triple-double to thwart San Antonio Spurs while Boston Celtics beat Pheonix on the road to bounce back from a surprise loss.
Testimony to Harden's greatness
"Don't normalise James Harden's greatness," said Harden's Rockets teammate Russel Westbrook post their big win against Portland Trail Blazer. You can see where it is coming from. Harden's scoring average for the season dipped when he scored 36 points in the Houston Rockets' 132-108 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. Dipped. Yes. That puts in perspective how productive Harden has been for the Rockets, who have won eight consecutive games, with Harden scoring more than 35 points in each victory during the streak.
The guy averages 39.5 points, 14.6 three-point attempts and 14.8 free-throw attempts per game. And he fell short of all those things.
How Harden has reinvented himself as the high-scoring baller is a 7-episode Netflix series. He’s a scoring and foul-drawing machine. Along the way he has his tricks – for opponents and referees – and pulled some of them off against the Trail Blazers as his Rockets dumped Portland 132-108.
Everyone knows about his step-back three-point shots but they still don't have the answer to it. That, ladies and gentleman, is greatness. When you are simply better than anyone else on the court.
Harden is a polarizing figure though. If you don't like him, his 'clever' way of drawing fouls and deceiving referees might not impress you. Or you can simply call it clever. Playing the Rockets, especially in the regular season, is going to be a tough task. In the playoffs, when the officiating is usually better and the pressure is heavier, things have always changed for Houston and Harden.
Luka 'LeBron' Doncic
It's getting harder and harder to describe what Luka Doncic is upto in just his second season in the NBA. So we are just going to call him the Slovenian LeBron for now. His performance on Monday night to lead the Dallas Mavericks past the San Antonio Spurs certainly credits that description though.
The Slovenian Small Forward put together another stellar performance, finishing with a career-high 42 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists to register his sixth triple-double so far already this season, and make history in the process -- He became the second player in NBA history to record a 40-point triple-double before turning 21 years old. The other? King LeBron James himself. That obviously steals the show in terms of the historical importance of his night, but in addition, he became the first player in Mavericks history to record a 40-point triple-double.
Luka Doncic becomes the 2nd youngest player in NBA history to have a 40-point triple-double. The only other to do it, LeBron ????— The Crossover (@TheCrossover) November 19, 2019
42 PTS | 11 REB | 12 AST pic.twitter.com/U6d1UtvH3T
Doncic started out his night on fire, pouring in 17 points in the first quarter alone to help the Mavericks get out to an early double-digit lead. He did so thanks to a number of nasty step-back 3s, draining shots left and right regardless of the resistance from the Spurs' defense. The kid's just 21 and certainly has the making of yet-another-non-American NBA legend,
There's nothing to worry folks! The Celtics shook off their second loss to beat Phoenix Suns 99-85 on Monday night. Jayson Tatum's 26-point, 11-rebound performance for his second double-double of the season was the highlight of the show with Celtics also shutting down the Suns' attack effortlessly.
The match was relatively close until the Celtics closed out the second quarter with a 20-4 run to lead 57-42 at the half.
Boston (11-2) continued to pull away in the second half in what was a surprisingly easy win over Suns who had won five of their past seven and was playing some of the best basketball in the NBA.
Celtics might have a problem in their hands though. Marcus Smart could be lost for an extended period with an ankle sprain suffered in the fourth quarter. Smart left after scoring 17 points to go with four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.