NBA DAILY DRIBBLE: Rockets lift off behind 40 from Harden

NBA results: November 12, 2018

Charlotte Hornets (113) – Detroit Pistons (103)

Indiana Pacers (103) – Houston Rockets (115)

Orlando Magic (115) – New York Knicks (89)

Milwaukee Bucks (121) – Denver Nuggets (114)

Boston Celtics (94) – Portland Trail Blazers (100)

Atlanta Hawks (106) – LA Lakers (107)

Three things that happened in the NBA today:

1. Harden and the Rockets have had enough

In November last year, James Harden averaged 34.9 points on 5.2 treys per game. He hit 46% of his shots and 43% from beyond the arc. Harden also added 10.1 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals. Houston was also an offensive juggernaut in November last year. They averaged 119 points per game with highs of 142 and 137. The Rockets only lost one of their 13 games during that stretch.

November this year hasn’t been as kind to Harden or the Rockets. Before the game against the Pacers today, Harden was only averaging 25.5 points on 37.7% shooting. The Rockets have also failed to hit 100 points in four of their first five games this month. They’ve lost back-to-back games heading into their match-up against the Pacers and were 4-7.

The Rockets and Harden finally had enough of the losing and their putrid offense. Harden erupted for 40, breaking out of his slump to start the new season. He looked like the prolific, unstoppable point guard. He looked like an MVP once again.

Harden hit eight three-pointers, got to the line 15 times (hit 14 free throws) and dished out nine assists.

With Harden leading the way, the Rockets scored 115 points, their third highest scoring output this year. They not only snapped a two-game slide, they also snapped a four-game stretch of not breaking 100 points.

Of course, Harden’s scoring explosion was just one of the big stories coming out of Houston.

Carmelo Anthony sat out his second straight game due to an “illness”. Last Friday, the Rockets held him out of the game. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN dropped this little nugget before the game.

That sure sounded like the Rockets and Anthony were about to have “the talk” about their relationship. Then the buzz got louder as Anthony missed the game today against the Pacers. Filling in for Anthony was Gary Clark, a player on a two-way contract.

Marc Stein of the New York Times added fuel to the fire with this report.

Scott Agness of The Athletic posted a video of GM Daryl Morey clarifying and standing by their official statement that Anthony is just “sick”.

But where there’s smoke, there’s definitely fire. ESN’s Tim McMahon just confirmed in a report what everyone was thinking.

2. LeBron James and Tyson Chandler saves the Lakers

The Lakers were safely ahead by double-digits after three quarters. They limited the Hawks to just 22 points and dropped 32 points in the third period to take an 11-point lead. Then the Ugly Defense Monster reared its ugly head.

Trae Young caught fire and to tow the Hawks back into the game. Young was even telling the Lakers where he just scored from.

In the final minutes of the game, the Lakers and Hawks traded baskets and leads with the outcome of the game still undecided.

With less than 20 seconds left in the game and the Hawks up by one, James was fouled on a drive to the hoop. He had a chance to give the Lakers the lead from the line but once again, muffed both freebies. Fortunately for the Lakers, Kyle Kuzma got a hand on the ball and tried to get shots up. James snuck in to dunk home a Kuzma miss with 15 seconds left, giving the Lakers a one-point lead

The Hawks still had a chance to win the game. In the end game, they went to Young who was being defended by Brandon Ingram. Young got past Ingram and had a clear lane to the hoop. He tried to scoop in a layup but Tyson Chandler rotated to help and got a hand on the ball. Chandler’s clutch block saved a win for the Lakers.

The Lakers have now won three straight games, five of their last six. They’re finally above .500 for the season at 7-6.

3. Brook Lopez makes it rain

Before Chandler arrived in LA, the Lakers’ TOTGA big man was Brook Lopez. LA had a chance to sign their former center in the offseason but let him walk. Lopez signed with the Bucks and quickly became one of their best players.

His outside shooting is a huge reason why he fits so well in Milwaukee’s revamped offense. That outside shooting was on full display against the Nuggets. Lopez scored 28 points on eight three-pointers, shredding the defense of Nikola Jokic.

In a lot of ways, Lakers fans still look at Lopez as the perfect center to play alongside LeBron James. Instead, Lopez is spacing the floor for the Greek Prince, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Photo from Getty Images