James Harden, Russell Westbrook combine for 80 points, provide blueprint for deep Rockets playoff run

Stylistically, the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are nearly equivalent teams. They mirror their greatest players, as James Harden and Luka Doncic characterize the closest replicas of one particular another any where in the basketball world. Protection is not a strong level, but details come with extraordinary ease. On Friday, the Rockets outlasted the Mavs by a rating of … wait around for it … 151-146 in overtime. 

James Harden had 49 details. 

Russell Westbrook added 31. 

Do the math, and that is 80 mixed details from Houston’s star duo. They also mixed for twenty rebounds, 16 assists, 5 blocks and four steals. They were being, to set it mildly, sensational. And that’ll have to continue on to be the scenario if Houston is heading to make a run in the playoffs. Probably not this sensational, but really darn sensational. 

The Rockets are playing uphill with their super-modest lineups. The Mavericks acquired into the lane and to the rim with laughable ease on Friday. The Rockets gave up 13 offensive rebounds and misplaced the in general rebound battle by a margin of 15. Next odds get rid of you in the playoffs. Battling continually greater teams is heading to dress in Houston down, and they are heading to give up a ton of details they can not give up 146 details, certainly, but they are heading to give up details. The idea is to just rating a lot more. 

That is why they traded Clint Capela and introduced in Robert Covington, to place the ground with 5 shooters and no massive guy in the lane, leaving the rim huge open up for assault. That approach was mainly devised for the advantage of Westbrook, who can not shoot but remains one particular of the most ruthless penetrators in NBA record. If he starts off settling for threes and mid-assortment pull-ups, forget about it. On Friday, twelve of his 13 buckets arrived in the paint, and 11 of them were being layups. That is gold for the Rockets. 

And that is what happens when Harden is cooking, as he unquestionably was on Friday, heading 6 for 6 from the discipline for 23 details in the initially quarter en route to a fourteen-for-twenty night that included 21 free of charge toss makes an attempt, eighteen of which he knocked down. Teams have to mail two or even a few defenders at Harden when he is rolling like that, and that is when Westbrook can choose around. The two performs under illustrate how devastating Harden and Westbrook can be together when Harden gets doubled, gets a inclined passer, and there is no massive guy to discourage Westbrook at the rim. 

That is how Westbrook has been attacking given that the calendar turned to January, when he reduce his three-level makes an attempt to much less than a few for every match. More than that ten-7 days span, Westbrook, including Friday night’s match, is averaging around 31 details a match on better than 52 percent capturing.

Harden is Houston’s greatest participant, but I continue on to think that Westbrook is its most crucial. With just about 5 months of relaxation, Harden is heading to be fresher than he is at any time been in the postseason, and he is heading to rating huge. You can count on that. The concern remains irrespective of whether Westbrook will continue to be disciplined with his shot collection and continue on to punish teams for doubling Harden with relentless and prosperous rim attacks. 

He did that on Friday. And the Rockets received. It’s a ton to ask for Harden and Westbrook to keep placing up these types of quantities, but that is the only way the Rockets can contend with the greatest teams. And in truth, there is certainly a lot of proof they can keep this up.