Breakfast Special: James Harden Space Program

Happy New Year, folks, even if it’s not as happy as it could’ve been for eight NBA fanbases. Let’s get right to it:

James Harden‘s Hamstring Goes Kerbal

Anyone who’s played “Kerbal Space Program” knows how easy it is to have rockets blow up.

And the Houston Rockets? Well, they sure looked like a Kerbal rocket for the last five games before the Lakers, a salve for any wound, came to town.

It took double overtime. It took 40 points from Harden despite the Beard leaving the game with a strained hamstring.

And it took a bizarre stat line where the Lakers got 20 or better from four of their starters but couldn’t get more than nine from anyone out of their bench crew to power a 148-142 Houston win.

Chris Paul had 28 points and 10 assists, Trevor Ariza added 26 on 9-of-15 shooting, and despite advantages in shooting percentage (52.5 to 46.2), rebounding (54-44), and even assists (31-29), the Rockets won this game the way Houston basketball works.

That is to say, they made more threes (18-10) and free throws (32-26, despite only two more attempts than their opponent.)


Philadelphia Starting Lineup Explosion!

Dario Saric had 27 points. Joel Embiid had 22. Ben Simmons notched 21, and J.J. Redick chimed in with 22 of his own.

Those four guys shot a combined 30-of-51 (58.8 percent).

And when you’re that good and you do it in regulation rather than double overtime, it doesn’t matter what your opponent does—especially if your opponent is the Phoenix Suns.

Which is to say that the 76ers won 122-110 to finish the calendar year 17-19, just a game and a half behind Indiana for the 8 spot in the East.

Devin Booker had 32 and T.J. Warren had 21 for the Suns, who did as they do, shooting 42 percent from the field while letting the other guys shoot 55.8, getting bullied on the boards, and generating terrible ball movement (just 18 assists on their 37 makes.)

It’s a Philly party in the desert and cheesesteaks for everyone. Saric is your man of the match:

Make Your Free Throws, Boston

The Celtics shot 16-of-25 from the free throw line. The Nets were 16-of-19.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Brooklyn won the turnover battle 19-11.

You’d think this would be enough to sink the Celtics, but in reality, all it meant was that a game that should’ve been a blowout (Boston outshot Brooklyn in terms of percentage 49.4-41.1 and extended that to the arc for a 42.4-30.6 edge) turned into a close win for the C’s.

Boston is now 30-10, the first NBA team to 30 wins this season.

Kyrie Irving had 28 points for the winners, while Spencer Dinwiddie and Allen Crabbe continued their bad habit of shooting the Nets out of games, combining to go 7-of-22 from the field. They also shot a combined 4-of-17 from three, leading to a volume-shooting eFG% of just .409. That…is legitimately terrible; anything under .500 for eFG% usually means a guy who can’t shoot.

Highlights from Uncle Drew, the man of the match in the 108-105 win:

The Surging Dallas Mavericks

Dallas has won four straight, climbing out of the NBA’s basement to settle at 13-25, good for 12th in the Western Conference (though nowhere near the playoff contenders.)

Oklahoma City, meanwhile, just wasted a perfectly good Triple 20 from their Big Three by having the rest of the team play like hot dog crap.

Russell Westbrook had 38 (plus 15 rebounds and 11 assists to complete the triple-double), Paul George had 25, and Carmelo Anthony had 21, with the three men combining to shoot 30-of-55 (54.5 percent) from the field.

The rest of the Thunder? 29 points on 13-of-34 (38.2 percent). That’s not going to get it done, especially when the Mavs shot 51.7 percent as a team, got 24 on 10-of-15 from Harrison Barnes, hit 15-of-34 (44.1 percent) from three, and turned the ball over only seven times.

All that was enough for a Dallas win on the road by a 116-113 count.

Highlights from the stretch run, and how about Dennis Smith Jr. coming up big with some driving layups and assists down the stretch:

Welcome To Bad Team Roulette

If you love games between teams that suck, have we got a deal for you!

The Memphis Grizzlies, who have won fewer games in their last 26 contests (five) than in their first 11 (seven), beat the Kings in Sacramento Sunday, winning 114-96 behind 26 points from Tyreke Evans.

Memphis shot 53.9 percent from the field and 46.7 percent (14-of-30) from three, made more free throws (18-13, and the Kings shot 52 percent from the line), and what on earth was with this game being Minutes Restriction Theater?

Nobody on Memphis played more than 26 minutes. Only two players on the Kings—Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein—played more than that, and they came off the bench.

You put @memgrizz into Twitter and it’s all highlights from Steph’s 38-point bonanza on Saturday.

So hey, let’s get some highlights up in here:

Lou Williams Is A Beast

The Clippers’ Sixth Man sensation had 40 off the bench, shooting 12-of-21 from the field and 6-of-9 from long range while canning ten of his 11 free throws.

That was enough to overcome a 30-point night from Kemba Walker, as the Clippers took a 106-98 win at Staples Center to close out a rough 2017 in which injuries submarined their best efforts at respectability.

Marvin Williams had zero points on six shots for Charlotte, while Dwight Howard got four points shooting 1-of-9.

That was enough to help drive a 38.7 percent shooting night for the Hornets, and that’s not going to cut it.

Blake Griffin had 25 in his second game back from injury; the Clips are now 2-0 with him back in the lineup and 16-19 overall; that’s good enough to float just a game and a half back of the playoff field in the West. LA went 6-8 without their star and they’re so far 10-11 with him, so it’s an open question just how much impact he’ll have.

Highlights from the man of the match:

And full game highlights:

We Want Victor

The Pacers have been atrocious in the absence of Victor Oladipo. And Sunday? Well, they started the game down 17-0. They lost by 17, 107-90. Maybe try not hitting the snooze button three times, guys.

Joe Young had 20 to lead Indiana; only Bojan Bogdanovic (13) and Cory Joseph (10) were in double figures otherwise.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler had 26, Karl-Anthony Towns had 18 points and 14 rebounds, all five Wolves starters were at least plus-26 (and four of them were plus-30 or better), and despite shooting just 4-of-19 from three, the Wolves still managed the blowout win.

Plus, there were turnovers, as many as you like, with the Pacers losing that battle 16-7.

It was ugly. It was nasty. I turned it off at halftime, disgusted. That’s the kind of game it was.

Come back, Victor. Get healthy, because this is a G-League team without you.

Highlights from the man of the match:

And Finally…

The Wizards had to fight with all they had to squeak out a 114-110 win over the Bulls at home.

That’s right, Chicago—even as they’re no real threat to make the playoffs unless they rip off another winning streak—has become a feared opponent.

Bradley Beal went for 39 on 16-of-29 shooting while coming up just a rebound and an assist short of a triple-double, John Wall added 21 points on nine assists, the Wiz made 16-of-36 (44.4 percent) from three against Chicago’s 8-of-35 (22.9 percent), and yet they nearly came up short.

Indeed, if the Bulls could’ve made a three-pointer to save their lives, this game was theirs.

Kris Dunn had 19 in his ongoing quest to wrest the Most Improved Player conversation away from the Pacers’ heart and soul, the Bulls got a Total Team Effort led by Nikola Mirotic‘s 21 off the bench, but those three-point bricks doomed them.

Highlights for the Real Deal, who laid the smackdown and scored 15 straight points in the fourth quarter to power his team:

Happy New Year, folks; we’ve got lots more Pace and Space in the coming year, so stay tuned and thanks for reading!