A primetime slot on Sky Sports was the perfect setting for James Harden to surpass an important milestone during his career. Scoring 20,000 points is no joke, and doing it in the style he has this season, and in such a convincing manner over the Minnesota Timberwolves, was fitting
Minnesota Timberwolves 109-139 Houston Rockets
It was James Harden’s teammate Russell Westbrook who had things going early. Known for low efficiency but high scoring, Westbrook stuck to the script, but he added 10 assists and six rebounds on the way to 30 points, which included one pull-up three-point shot early.
Once the Rockets had separation, Harden picked up the load and the lead ballooned in the second half. He reached his 20,000th point in the only way he knows how – a three-point step back – and kept the pressure on with some beautiful between-the-legs assists.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were nowhere to be seen. By the end of the first half, they were down 16, and it never really got closer. Andrew Wiggins worked for his shot and got to the line four times, but he only made three of 13 field goals and did not set up his teammates at all. Josh Okogie led the team in scoring, and while the second-year man continues to develop, he is typically the ninth highest scorer for this squad, and tells you exactly how this night went for the visitors.
New Orleans Pelicans 105-140 Boston Celtics
In a game packed with teamwork highlights, with the Boston Celtics making beautiful pass after beautiful pass to lead to open buckets, Jayson Tatum came away as the hero. He was locked in for the 30 minutes he played, managing 41 points, six rebounds, four assists, as well as three steals in an efficient night across the board.
Teammate Enes Kanter was another star of the evening, as he owned the glass with 19 rebounds in total to add to his 22 points. But Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker and Kaylen Brown all contributed plenty to this one.
The New Orleans Pelicans have been leaning heavily on Brandon Ingram during recent weeks, but he struggled, shooting just 26 per cent, but Frank Jackson and Jaxson Hayes attempted to pick up the baton in the scoring column. And while Lonzo Ball just missed out on a triple-double, nothing was stopping the Celtics.
Chicago Bulls 108-99 Detroit Pistons
This feisty contest between division rivals provided plenty of entertainment, especially when you consider that Andre Drummond only played half the game and managed nine points. The big man opened his game by scoring his first three-point make of the season, but was offended when the Chicago Bulls’ Daniel Gafford scored over him and shouted in his face. Drummond threw the ball at the back of Gafford’s head and was ejected.
Despite missing him in the scoring and rebounding columns, the Detroit Pistons stayed within reaching distance during the second half, thanks to 20 points and seven assists from Derrick Rose, and another good game from rookie Sekou Doumbouya.
However, Zach Lavine kept the scoreboard ticking over for the Bulls, to finish with 25 points, four assists and six rebounds, with Gafford and Lauri Markkanen scoring 14 apiece to keep the Pistons from grabbing the win.
LA Lakers 125-110 Oklahoma City Thunder
With Anthony Davis’ back still sore after falling hard against the New York Knicks last week, and LeBron James out with a flu that seems to have hit half the NBA, some were concerned about the LA Lakers keeping their winning streak alive, especially against an Oklahoma City Thunder team that has been rumbling along successfully in recent weeks. However, this concern would not last long.
The Lakers are making a habit of starting games hot and smothering their opposition. In the first quarter, Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma set the pace that would result in a 41-19 lead after 12 minutes.
Kuzma kept it up throughout the game, even when the Thunder started creeping back in the second half. Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander kept plugging away and finished with 24 points each, but even after outscoring the Lakers in the second half, it would not be enough to close the large first-quarter deficit.
Kuzma finished with 36 points and seven rebounds, which helped embolden the Lakers fans calling him the third member of this team’s big three, and improved his trade value should LA look to make an upgrade in the coming weeks.
Philadelphia 76ers 91-109 Dallas Mavericks
Coming off the back of a frustrating night against the LA Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks made sure that their exchange with the Philadelphia 76ers didn’t get out of hand, despite being down 12 points before the end of the first half.
In the battle of the big guards, Ben Simmons got the better of Luka Doncic in the opening sequences, with the Australian picking the pocket of the Slovenian, leading to dunks and assists in transition. However, during the second half, Doncic got support from the rest of the Mavericks starting five.
Dallas is still without Kristaps Porzingis, but Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber stepped up, combining for 29 points and 20 rebounds, while Doncic got going to finish the game off with 19 points, eight rebounds and 12 assists to eke out a good victory at home.
Cleveland Cavaliers 111-103 Denver Nuggets
A dramatic week for the Cleveland Cavaliers ended with a dramatic victory over the Denver Nuggets, despite the best efforts of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic in the closing stages.
After getting frustrated on the court a few games ago, Kevin Love kept his energy high and his shot on target, as he went for 19 points and 15 rebounds. Cedi Osman and Tristan Thompson joined him in collecting double-doubles, while Collin Sexton went off for 25 points to claim the scalp of a Western Conference powerhouse.
Milwaukee Bucks 122-101 Portland Trail Blazers
In another large victory on this busy NBA night, the Milwaukee Bucks got out in front early and never looked back while visiting Portland to take on the Trail Blazers.
The visitors outscored the home team in every quarter, thanks to a masterful, all-round effort from Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is basically a mismatch anywhere on the court. In this game, he shot 2 of 4 from behind the arc, bullied players in the post, drove to the basket from the top of the key, and set screens that would see him roll to the rim for a dunk or shoot from mid-range. The MVP candidate is an unstoppable force this season.
He wasn’t alone, however, as Khris Middleton managed 30 points, and Eric Bledsoe scored 29 for the best team in the league, as the Bucks move to 35-6 on the season.