James Harden and the Houston Rockets are in town for a 7 PM tilt against the Wolves at Target Center.
The Wolves have lost 3 out of 4 and could use a win.
Harden is the main attraction. At 25.7 points per game, Harden is 4th in the League in scoring behind Kobe, Melo, and Durant.
But wait – there’s more.
You probably already know that Harden is also a phenomenal passer: he’s currently tied for 22nd in the League in assists at 5.4 per game, which puts him just behind Ty Lawson. Not bad, especially considering Harden’s a great passer from his position – LeBron is the only non-point guard who averages more assists than The Beard. (Kobe is the next non-point guard on the assists list, ranked #29, tied with JJ Redick and just ahead of Manu Ginobili and Dwyane Wade.)
Is Harden really playing that well, or is he just doing a lot of stuff because he’s no longer a 6th man? (Harden is averaging over 38 minutes per game, the most in his career.) He’s actually doing pretty great: Harden’s scoring and passing production have both increased per 36 this year, and his PER is at a career best 23.3 (his previous best was 21.1, in 2011-12).
So Harden’s doing lots of stuff, and he’s doing it fairly efficiently considering his usage rate has also gone way up from last season (28.2 vs. 21.6). He’s is going to be a hard one to stop tonight for the Wolves.
Other Rockets Stuff
Linsanity is back. Kind of, at least. After some really rough games to start the season, Lin has been playing a lot better lately. He’s averaging 18.5 points on over 58% from the floor in his last four games – all Rockets wins. Lin went for 20 & 11 on 8-12 shooting last night in Chicago as the Rockets destroyed the Bulls on one of those national tv Christmas day games that a lot of people watch. Those who saw Lin in that win are probably at home sick today, having caught that fever they were experiencing for two long weeks last winter with the malady that became labelled Linsanity. (I heard bad malaria pills actually caused that, but that’s just thirdhand RUMINT.)
Can the Wolves guard Lin effectively? Lin’s replacement on the Knicks, Ray Felton, had to exert only minimal effort to get the shots he wanted in the Wolves’ heartbreaking loss Sunday in New York – especially when Luke Ridnour was guarding him.
Luke doesn’t appear to have anything left in the tank on defense; he’s either injured, or just plain old. It’s hard to tell which – hell, the way he looks, it might be both. Watching Lin score on Luke at will tonight is going to be painful, so I hope this is the night Adelman takes mercy on us fans and gives Ricky Rubio 28 minutes. Ricky’s defensive instincts are good as ever, he’s healthy, and he may need more minutes to shake off the rust and find his flow on offense. Fortunately, it looks like Ricky is on track to start getting more minutes very soon, and maybe tonight. Hopefully so; he will fare a lot better on Lin than the alternatives if he gets the chance. (Not saying much, but still, it needed to be said.)
While I’m talking about Lin, one more thing: read this big piece of long form by Jay Caspian Kang. (While you’re at it, check out his novel – it’s good stuff.) If you clicked through, you already know Kang’s piece isn’t actually about Lin. It’s better. Linsanity was done to death last year, and eventually there was nothing left to say – even after the Knicks chose not to bring him back. But Kang’s piece is something new: it’s a fascinating look at both the pressures of being an Asian-American hoops phenom, and the very very strange culture of prep hoops at Oak Hill Academy.
A couple other things to watch for tonight:
- Battle of the boards: Omar Asik is good. So is Nik Pekovic. And Kevin Love (who is playing tonight). Royce White is too, but we won’t be seeing it tonight or anytime soon.
- Kevin McHale: Our condolences go out to Rockets coach Kevin McHale and his family, who lost a family member recently. Here’s wishing Mac all the best in his return to ‘Sota.