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Fear the Beard II: Harden drops 37 and 12 in Rockets win

Nov 1, 2012, 12:39 AM EDT

In case you thought James Harden only looked like he could ball because he was playing next to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook… honestly, if you thought that what guy have you you watching? Harden has been fantastic the last few years. The guy didn’t make the Olympic team because Coach K liked his beard.

One game does not prove a player a No. 1 option, an alpha dog, an elite superstar on a team. But Harden, unleashed from OKC, sure looked the part in his Rockets debut.

Harden put up a monster line — 37 points on 25 shots, plus 12 assists — and led an 11-point fourth quarter comeback as the Rockets beat the Pistons 105-96.

What you want your alpha dog to be is a closer — Harden was that in leading a 33-15 fourth quarter win and comeback by the Rockets. He hit a couple threes, he attacked off the pick-and-roll and got in the lane, he set up his teammates, he was everything you would want.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey had to look at Harden’s shot chart and just grin like a Cheshire Cat — stats tell you the most efficient shots are at the rim or beyond the three point arc, and of Harden’s 25 shots on the night 10 were threes and 11 were in the restricted area.

It was a masterful performance, and frankly we knew Harden had it in him — we saw flashes of this when he played for the Thunder. Watching him in this game, it was clear he reined in some of what he could do to fit in along side Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. We knew he sacrificed. We understood he had more game.

What we didn’t know — what we still don’t know — is if he can do this consistently. Defenses are going to target him, game plans will be drawn up to stop him, and Harden has to produce like this consistently. Jeremy Lin can help — good things happened when he was on the floor for the Rockets and he was a game high +23 on the night and had 8 dimes — but this game showed the Rockets are now Harden’s team. He is the man. The face and beard of the franchise. He is their alpha dog.

And for a night at least, he looked fully up to the task.

  1. narrabeen23 - Nov 1, 2012 at 12:49 AM

    Is it wrong to ask if OKC signed the wrong guard to a max deal?

    • dgbk - Nov 1, 2012 at 12:56 AM

      I’m rooting for him just to silence critics with all the “he is not worth a max contract” talk. If someone gave you 5 yr $80 mil to flip burgers your worth 80 mil to flip burgers he got what he is worth. I doubt Harden will produce like this all night but I can see an all star appearance and 20 ppg 5 ast 5 reb for the season.

    • scalfor3 - Nov 1, 2012 at 1:14 AM

      absolutely not. if i was presti i would’ve focused on keeping harden over westbrook/ibaka once durant was taken care of

      • chawbacon14 - Nov 1, 2012 at 8:01 AM

        Why don’t you wait till December the First, before arriving at that conclusion.

        Rockets schedule will provide plenty of challenges in the next month.

        We need more data than one game , vrs the Pistons, who may not have done any preparation for Harden.

      • scalfor3 - Nov 1, 2012 at 10:25 AM

        Well of course there’s time for Harden to prove me wrong. I just don’t think he will. I’ve thought he had lead dog abilities for two years now and while I’ll miss him playing with Durant (and how well he and Collison ran the pick and roll together), I’m happy that he has the chance to fully show his abilities. I think he’s going to make the most of it.

    • chawbacon14 - Nov 1, 2012 at 7:59 AM

      Is it wrong to ask ?

      Yes

  2. money2long - Nov 1, 2012 at 12:55 AM

    translation: i don’t want to be remembered as a great sixth man.

  3. danielcp0303 - Nov 1, 2012 at 12:59 AM

    Harden is one of 4 players to put up a stat line like that. The other 3 were Jordan, Bird and Wade

  4. 00maltliquor - Nov 1, 2012 at 1:28 AM

    Daaaayum! That FULL statline was foolish!

    Harden after every bucket…”I…AM…NOT…A BENCH PLAYER!!!!”

  5. badintent - Nov 1, 2012 at 1:29 AM

    That was easy. Thanks J.Lin for doing what you do , NY will miss you .The Beard and the Brain. Nice ring to it , don’t ya think ?

    • southbeachtalent - Nov 1, 2012 at 4:21 PM

      Beardie and the Brain, that has a nice ring to it!

  6. heathater4lifeson - Nov 1, 2012 at 1:42 AM

    Crazy what one very good game against a very bad team can do for you. Everyone has already seemed to forget that awful finals performance just a few months ago.

    • eventhorizon04 - Nov 1, 2012 at 4:13 AM

      Crazy what one very bad series against a very good team can do for you.
      This guy has already seemed to forget Harden’s superb playoff performance leading up to the Finals just a few months ago.

  7. money2long - Nov 1, 2012 at 3:00 AM

    it’s sure gonna be tough for kevin martin to follow up this performance. lol

    • letangusespertplus - Nov 1, 2012 at 6:35 AM

      well lucky for martin he plays on the team with the best scorer in the league so he wont have to put up 37 to beat the pistons.

  8. raidmagic - Nov 1, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    Impressive but come on it was one night against a bad Piston team and they needed a 4th quarter come back to win. Look I don’t have bad feelings for the guy and I would like to see him succeed but let’s go more than one game before we crown him worthy of that max contract.

    • chawbacon14 - Nov 1, 2012 at 7:57 AM

      Oh, he’s worth the max contract. But he’s not worth the max to the Thunder. Thunder already have two great players. He does not make the Thunder incrementally better to a degree large enough to justify paying huge amounts of luxury tax.

      I never doubted James was worth a max or that a lot of teams would offer him a max.

      It does remain to be seen if he can carry this team after defenses begin focusing on him. Its not like Rockets have other threats. I think he may have caught the Pistons by surprise. The Bulls shut him down last week in a preseason game in Chicago, but not every team plays the defense the Bulls do.

  9. quancao - Nov 1, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    All of a sudden, Houston finds itself after one game, in contention with those Western big boys? Harden proves OKC needs him more than he needs the team, and he’ll help Rockets grow. The chemistry between him and Lin will now be something for coaching staff to build on. They still have to show what they can do against a Heat type defense, which both Lin and Harden have failed to.

    • majorhavoc83 - Nov 1, 2012 at 10:05 AM

      Pairing Lin and Harden is smart from both a basketball perspective, and a business perspective. Lin can keep feeding Harden the ball, and these guys can play off each other. From a business perspective, this will clearly help Houston get more paying customers in their arena. This deal will pay dividends for the Rockets for some time to come as these guys are both young players. Great move, Rockets!

  10. hehateme2 - Nov 1, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    He wasn’t great against the Heat where he disappeared.

  11. lakerluver - Nov 1, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    Damn, maybe he is a max player. OKC might have made a big mistake. I can assure you Kevin Martin will never rack up that many assists in one game. Maybe in one month!! Maybe.

  12. eflem80 - Nov 1, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    ……it was the Pistons.

  13. Gabbo - Nov 1, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    Houston’s starting group will be fine against most teams. Their problems will be when Harden/Lin hit the bench. After half of it got traded for Harden, the leftovers after Delfino aren’t impressive at all.

    I’m not saying Pistons are good, but they are better than most people think and will contend for that East #8 seed.

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