The James Harden show continues to roll, and Russell Westbrook is also getting into the act.
The two former MVP guards aim to keep up their success when the Houston Rockets visit the Sacramento Kings on Monday night.
The Rockets are looking for their fourth straight victory after Harden (47 points) and Westbrook (30) combined for 77 points in Saturday’s 139-125 triumph over the host Phoenix Suns.
Harden fell shy of his 24th career 50-point outing but he did score 40 or more for the 89th time. That snapped a tie with Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor as Harden took possession of fourth place in NBA history.
Harden knocked down nine 3-pointers in his latest stellar outing. Teams have been mixing up their defensive schemes, resorting to double teams and using multiple defenders to guard him throughout a contest and Harden just keeps rising to the challenge.
“Just every single game, trying to figure out what they’re doing and how can I be aggressive and attack it,” Harden said in a postgame television interview of the variety of defenses he faces. “I love playing the game of basketball. I love being crafty and just trying to compete at a high level every single night. It takes a lot, but I’m built for it and I’m just going to continue to keep on.”
Westbrook has scored 30 or more in three straight games and four of his last six during his top scoring streak of the season. He is averaging 30.2 points during the span and appears more comfortable with the pace of the Houston offense.
“It’s a good balance for our team, for myself,” Westbrook said after the win over Phoenix. “I think it’s moving in the right direction.”
Sacramento is sliding down the wrong path with three straight losses.
Shooting guard Buddy Hield has slipped into a disastrous two-game shooting funk that has seen him score in single digits in back-to-back games.
Hield is 6-of-33 shooting — including 3 of 20 from 3-point range — in the two outings. He was 3 of 15 while scoring seven points in Friday’s 119-105 loss to the Indiana Pacers and was 3 of 18 for eight points in Saturday’s 119-115 setback against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“Buddy’s a great shooter. He’s a hard worker,” Kings coach Luke Walton told reporters. “People are going to make and miss shots in this league. … We’re not concerned with Buddy. He’ll get it going more nights than not.”
Not getting enough production from Hield was certainly a problem in the close loss to the Grizzlies. Six of the eight Kings who played scored in double digits but the team dropped to 6-12 on the road.
“Everybody is upset when you lose,” Hield said. “I don’t know who is not upset. If you’re not upset, you shouldn’t be playing on this team.”
One of Sacramento’s biggest moments of the season occurred when it edged the Rockets 119-118 in Houston on Dec. 9.
Forward Nemanja Bjelica drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to set off a raucous celebration.
Making it more of a feel-good moment was the fact the Rockets won all four of last season’s meetings.
Hield was on his mark that night with 26 points and he connected on 6 of 13 from 3-point range.
Westbrook scored 34 for the Rockets while Harden was limited to 27.
Harden wasn’t overly concerned with his point total after Saturday’s game. He glanced up at the scoreboard during the postgame interview and wasn’t the least bit pleased over the Suns’ production.
“We scored 139 points, but we gave up 125,” Harden said. “Our backbone that we need to rely on is our defense. The last few games, we’ve really been guarding. We let it slip away a little bit (Saturday night) but we got the win. We’ve got to crank it up with a different game.”
Kings backup shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (ankle) could miss his third straight game.
–Field Level Media