HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – It hasn’t been a fun last few days for James Harden.
His Rockets lost 131-106 on Saturday to the Warriors in a game that had plenty of pre-game hype. He was limited to his third lowest scoring output of the season, 12 points, on 4-of-15 shooting. He was in foul trouble for much of that game.
So it was fulfilling, to say the least, for Harden to bounce back on Monday with a season-high 45 points, seven assists, and four steals. Harden needed only 18 shots to score those 45 points, hitting 12 of those attempts. He made six three-pointers. And, most importantly, the Rockets were back to their winning ways with a 110-98 victory over the Pacers.
“It’s going to be like that,” Harden said. “There are going to be some games where I’m not making shots or I’m just frustrated. Last game, having three fouls in the first quarter, that was the first time I really went through that all season. (It was) kind of frustrating, but it was very important to bounce back and we did a great job of that tonight.”
Harden said the key was getting his teammates involved early. After all, only 12 of his points came in the first half. At that juncture, Harden already had five assists as the Rockets were hitting almost 53 percent of their shots and had themselves a 10-point lead.
“You make the defense move and everybody gets open shots, then you get the defense second guessing on our offense on what they normally do and our offense looks really good. When we’re clicking like that and we’re moving the basketball and everybody’s getting touches and getting easy shots, it makes the game a lot easier for us.”
That led to better shots for Harden in the second half and touched off a 33-point effort by the Rockets’ star after halftime. Harden started the third quarter hitting his first five shots for 17 points. He finished the third with 18 points and needed only six shots to score 15 in the fourth quarter.
“He’s having a great year, an MVP-type season,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “He has to be in that conversation and was just way too much for us tonight.”
“There’s nothing a defender can do,” Kevin McHale said. “He (made) that little step-back three at the end of the third. Those are just tough shots, but he’s been playing really well. I know he didn’t like how that Golden State game felt and he came out and did something about it.”