In their final game before the All-Star break, the small-ball Rockets improved to 2-2 since the mid-season trade deadline, with an impressive 116-105 home victory against the Boston Celtics.
Their All-Star duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook did a bulk of the damage, combining for 78 of the team's 116 points, helping them snap the Celtics' seven-game win streak.
Here are the biggest takeaways from this game:
The Harden and Westbrook show
Russell Westbrook had the more efficient game with 36 points (13-23 FG; 10-13 FT), 10 rebounds, five assists, and two steals in 37 minutes but Harden's near 42-point triple-double (8 rebounds, 7 assists) was the game-changer.
He erupted for a personal 13-0 run and scored 19 straight points for the hosts in the third quarter, a period where the Rockets began putting some distance between them and the Celtics.
13-0 run by The Beard in the 3rd QTR 🔥 pic.twitter.com/QADxLqZWc6- NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 12, 2020
Harden, despite going 9-of-19 from the field, connected on 7-of-13 three-pointers and 17-of-18 at the free throw line. He finished with a game-high +24 in 39 minutes.
This is the 142nd time James Harden has recorded 10+ 3PA and 10+ FTA in the same game, most in NBA history. He has a slight lead on everybody else:- StatMuse (@statmuse) February 12, 2020
142 - Harden
39 - Damian Lillard
31 - Kobe Bryant
30 - Gilbert Arenas
24 - Stephen Curry
24 - Kevin Durant
24 - Russell Westbrook pic.twitter.com/y0bF11zINi
This is the fifth time this season both Harden and Westbrook have scored 30 or more in the same game, with the Rockets 4-1 in those games.
The Rockets' James Harden and Russell Westbrook have each scored at least 30 points in the same game five times this season:- StatMuse (@statmuse) February 12, 2020
1️⃣ Dec. 21, 2019
2️⃣ Jan. 11, 2020
3️⃣ Jan. 18, 2020
4️⃣ Jan. 31, 2020
5️⃣ Feb. 11, 2020
No other duo in team history has more such games in a single season. pic.twitter.com/c9FqI6k5yN
The duo also combined for 12 of the team's 17 assists.
Underwhelming game for Tatum & Walker
Prior to this game, the Celtics had won seven straight and 10 of their last 11.
Jayson Tatum, the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, had averaged 26.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists on 49.0% shooting from the field playing eight of the Celtics' last 11 games.
Although he contributed across the board with nine rebounds, four assists, and four steals, he did struggle shooting from the field, only managing 15 points on 5-15 shooting from the field including going 0-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Kemba Walker, who averages 21.8 points per game this season on 43.3% shooting from the field, finished with 14 points in this one on 5-of-17 shooting.
Here's the combined shot chart for Walker and Tatum:
Can the Rockets sustain this?
In the four games since the mid-season trade deadline, when the Rockets have gone with their 6'7" or less super small-ball line-up, the team has gone 2-2.
Among their two losses, their 36-point loss came in Phoenix on the second night of a back-to-back with Westbrook not suiting up and the other loss came off a buzzer-beating game-winner at the hands of the Utah Jazz.
In the other two games, they have registered convincing wins against the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. So, how will these small-ball Rockets fare in the business end of the season post the All-Star break?
Well, their remaining 28 games is the seventh easiest schedule in the league, as per tankathon.
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