James Harden Ready For NBA Restart After Final Scrimmage
We should be careful not to glean too much from an exhibition game, but Tuesday night was certainly an encouraging tune-up for the Rockets before the NBA restart.
James Harden was firing on all cylinders in Tuesday's 137-112 win over the Celtics, and fellow MVP Russell Westbrook tallied 19 points on an efficient 6-10 from the field. Injury concerns aside (more on that below), the Rockets look as ready as they can be for the regular season to resume on Friday.
Here are three takeaways from Tuesday's scrimmage.
Harden Ready to Roll
The caution when discussing scrimmages has been noted, and Boston didn't exactly roll out its best squad on Tuesday as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward all sat out. But the personnel in front of Harden felt almost immaterial. The 2017-18 MVP was dominant from the outset on Tuesday, leading all scorers with 35 points as he shot 10-16 from the the field. Harden scored 30 points in the first half. He hit six of his first eight threes. The NBA's scoring leader has shaken any rust he brought to Orlando.
"These preseason games and practices we've used as opportunities to work on our offense and defense and making sure we're in shape to give ourselves the best chance.," Harden said postgame. "Now we can go over some things tomorrow in practice and prepare to get our bodies ready, because it's going to be a journey."
Gordon Helped Off
Harden led the way in an encouraging performance on Tuesday, but Eric Gordon's ankle injury loomed over head coach Mike D'Antoni's postgame press conference. And for good reason. Gordon was slated to be in Houston's starting lineup when the regular season resumed, and the Indiana product appeared to be in-shape and healthy following an injury-plagued 2019-20. The Rockets will be dealt a serious blow if Gordon misses significant time.
Gordon was helped off the floor in the second quarter on Sunday after landing on the foot of Celtics center Vincent Poirier. Gordon was aided by Michael Frazier and Tyson Chandler as he exited the arena, though he did briefly put weight on his leg. Houston's guard was ruled out for the game with a left ankle injury, and he underwent an X-Ray as Houston concluded the scrimmage.
D'Antoni said the Rockets will know more about the extent of Gordon's injury on Wednesday. The 12-year veteran is expected to miss at least "a few days," per D'Antoni.
Rockets Rain Triples
Harden led the way for Houston on Tuesday, but plenty of teammates joined in on the parade from beyond the arc.
Robert Covington continued a strong showing in Orlando with four made threes on seven attempts, while P.J. Tucker, Austin Rivers and Ben McLemore each hit multiple triples. And Houston's three-point proficiency seemed to be a product of more than just a hot night. Russell Westbrook set the tone as a drive-and-kick menace against the Celtics' B-team, and the Rockets spent much of Tuesday night passing up good looks for great ones. Houston's half-court attack looked playoff ready in the team's final scrimmage.
Up Next: vs. Mavericks on Friday
We've waited nearly five months, but meaningful basketball will return for the Rockets on Friday night as Houston faces Luke Doncic and the Mavericks. The first seeding game in Orlando could be significant, with the Rockets entering the contest 1.5 games ahead of Dallas for the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.
Tip-off on Friday is slated for 8 p.m. CT.