Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni saved a straight face till he caught a glimpse of James Harden and noticed him chuckling behind the beard. D’Antoni might need resisted the urge to chuckle alongside, however by then, it had gotten too robust.
The Rockets had been properly on their strategy to a laugher towards the Atlanta Hawks. They’d their offense rolling because it not often has and past what was probably mandatory towards the weary and shorthanded Hawks, coming in for the second half of a back-to-back with a nine-game dropping streak.
The Rockets had scored too simply for a lot of the first half on Saturday for there to be any doubt about how issues would finish lengthy earlier than the Rockets constructed a 58-point lead and cruised in for a 158-111 romp.
So, earlier than the primary half would finish, earlier than Harden would badly outscore the complete Hawks workforce within the third quarter, Harden stopped to have some enjoyable.
He rapid-fired crossover dribbles in entrance of a helpless Jabari Parker, mixing in a couple of head fakes and jab steps till he backed as much as 28 ft and fired over Parker’s attain for a 3.
With that, he and D’Antoni, roughly 50 ft aside, shared fun of the absurdity of a type of nights, as in the event that they knew what was to return.
3-pointers: Takeaways from Rockets’ win over Hawks
The Rockets had shot the Hawks out of the defenses they’d used to maintain further our bodies round Harden, shifting the ball to so many open appears to be like, they’d their finest taking pictures, finest 3-point taking pictures and top-scoring first half of the season.
The Rockets had been so sharp of their execution and shot-making they hit 65.1 p.c of their first-half photographs, 60 p.c of their 3s till Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce known as off the Harden-focused protection and simply let defenders do their finest one-on-one.
Harden torched that for some time, then took off in third quarter. When he was by, Harden scored 29 third-quarter factors, calling it an evening earlier than the fourth quarter started with 60 factors on simply 24 photographs, sinking eight of his 14 3s.
Along with his demolition of the workforce that snapped his 30-point scoring streak at 32 video games final season, Harden had his fourth profession 60-point recreation, achieved in simply 31 minutes. That moved him right into a tie with Michael Jordan for the third-most in NBA historical past, two shy of Kobe Bryant and 28 from Wilt Chamberlain’s assortment. No different lively participant has scored 60 factors in a recreation greater than as soon as.
Even with Clint Capela and Danuel Home Jr. out with sicknesses, he had loads of assist with Ben McLemore persevering with to supply as a starter, getting a season-high 24 factors and including a career-high 13 rebounds whereas Russell Westbrook had 15 factors with eight rebounds and eight assists in simply 27 minutes.
Overshadowed as he was, Hawks guard Trae Younger placed on a present of his personal, following Friday’s 49 factors with 37 in simply 31 minutes.
The evening, nonetheless, belonged to the league’s main scorer and the best way every little thing within the Rockets’ offense got here collectively round him.
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