Last Night in the NBA: James Harden pours in 37 points in Rockets debut

By: Kels Dayton

AP Photo

The Houston Rockets may have something here with this Jeremy Lin-James Harden backcourt. Harden was ridiculous in game one, scoring 37 points and dishing out 12 assists in a one-man show that would have rivaled anything Sally Weaver did on Seinfeld. Lin wasn’t as impressive, but did add 12 points and 8 assists, including some clinician-like bounce passes to set up Harden for easy baskets.

It’s not likely that both will live up to the combined $120 million in salary that the Rockets will be paying them, but they sure are fun to watch. Houston shared the ball, set each other up beautifully, and made some spectacular passes, including a physics-defying bounce pass from Chandler Parsons to Omer Asik in the first half. That’s the good news. The bad? The Rockets needed a 33-15 fourth quarter to outlast the lowly Pistons, even with the 37-point schooling Harden put on Detroit. Houston’s offense was stagnant without the Beard, to the point that coach Kevin McHale couldn’t take him and Lin out of the game at the same time without worrying that the ball was going to get stolen before it crossed half court. Everyone is going to go wild over Harden’s night (and rightfully so), but this still isn’t a playoff team.

Anthony Davis was nothing short of beastly in his NBA debut. The Unibrow put up 21 points, grabbed 7 boards and blocked a shot. He showed a dizzying array of post moves in the low block, and seemed to score with ease when his teammates actually gave him the ball. Davis shot 6-for-12 from the field and hit all nine of his free throws.

Davis more than held his own in his NBA debut. (Larry Murdoch/NBA E/Getty)

There was one possession in which he put up a tough, contested shot, bricked it, and somehow fought his way past Tim Duncan and the rest of the Spurs front line for the rebound. He was calm and confident defending the greatest power forward of all time, and more than held his own in the paint. If anything slowed Davis in his debut, it was his teammates, who rushed shots, overlooked him and generally ran horrible offense at times. Austin Rivers was the biggest culprit, shooting 1-for-9 and further fueling critics who don’t believe he will be worth the lottery pick the Hornets spent on him.

We know it’s only one game, but here’s a prediction we’ll stand by: Davis will be better than Blake Griffin. He may not produce as many highlights or star in as many Kia commercials, but the ‘Brow is already more polished offensively, and has a stratospheric ceiling on defense. He’s going to be an absolute stud in this league, capable of carrying a team deep into the playoffs.

And the best thing about Davis? He took the 99-95 opening night loss to the Spurs hard. “He’s in there feeling like it’s the end of the world,” said Hornets head coach Monty Williams.

Watching the Suns, we kept thinking that Goran Dragic was Steve Nash. It’s not that Dragic played like him at all, it’s just weird seeing someone other than Nash running the Phoenix offense. Speaking of Nash, he left in the second quarter of  the Lakers’ loss to the Blazers with a shin injury. No word yet on how serious it is.

We would love to join the hysteria over the Lakers’ 0-2 start, combined with an impossibly bad 0-8 record in the preseason, but there are still 80 games to go in the season. The Heat struggled mightily throughout the first half of the 2011 NBA season, and still ended up a LeBron meltdown away from an NBA championship. The cream rises to the top in the NBA, and a team with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, and Steve Nash is plenty creamy. The Lakers will figure this out, and they’ll be a force come playoff time. We don’t like it, but that’s just the way it is.

ALSO WORTH MENTIONING: Blazers rookie Damian Lillard, who dropped 23 points and 11 dimes in the best performance by a rookie so far. It doesn’t matter one bit that Lillard came from the Big Sky and not the Big East. This kid can ball.


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