• James Harden's records a 50-point triple double to give the Rockets a huge win over the Lakers and showed that the reigning MVP is still to be feared in the West.
By Khadrice Rollins
December 14, 2018

From the second James Harden stepped into the arena wearing a snakeskin shorts set, it was clear he was ready for business. And that he was looking amazing.

The reigning MVP put on a show for the home crowd and guided the Rockets to their second straight win by topping the Lakers 126-111.

It’s been a rough start to the season in Houston, but Harden’s 50-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound performance will give hope to the fans this team is on the verge of turning it all around.

On Tuesday, Harden was the only Rocket to eclipse 20 points in a win over the Trail Blazers. He had help, as Chris Paul posted a triple-double and five other teammates also scored in double figures, but like in Thursday’s game, it all came down to The Beard.

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Against Portland, Harden used a 14-point third quarter to help the Rockets claim a lead they maintained throughout the final 12 minutes.

With the Lakers in town, Harden needed the entire second half to complete his league-record fourth 50-point triple double and send the fans home happy.

He dropped 31 points over those final two quarters (14 in the third and 17 in the fourth) and he was the one who shut the door on the visitors when it was time to close.

He checked into the game for the final time with just fewer than five minutes remaining. He turned it over on his first possession, and then Los Angeles immediately cut the lead to three. What followed was something that only a few players in the league could do. Harden ripped off nine straight points including a pair of stepback threes to push the lead to 12. In the end, he had 15 of Houston’s final 17 points to seal the victory.

The problems in Houston are not going to be fixed overnight. Even with the victory, the Rockets are still 13th in the West. Although that is a modest improvement from the 14th spot where they started the night at.

Whenever they finally move on from Carmelo Anthony, they will likely fill his roster spot with a player who needs to be worked into their rotation. And the players in the rotation now still need to get more comfortable with Harden and Paul navigating Mike D’Antoni’s offense, which has been a shell of what it was last season.

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But if Harden can keep reminding the opposition why he was handed the MVP last season, it can buy this team some time to get things figured out. With the West as close as it is, nobody is out of contention besides Phoenix. Still, those early losses count toward the record and can be a world of difference when they are determining tiebreaker scenarios in April.

So as the Rockets try to vault back up toward the top of the West where they think they belong, they need Harden to fuel their cause. As the defense looks to get back to what it was last season despite missing key wing players, and while the offense tries to get back to the record-setting pace it was on last season, Harden needs to do what he was doing in the previous campaign to keep things afloat.

The Rockets as a whole only look decent right now. But Harden looks amazing. And sometimes, that’s all that will matter.

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