James tops James; A look back

Houston_RocketsThere was a lot to take in from the Houston Rockets 59th regular season game. The fans at Toyota Center and watching on national television were treating to an old-fashioned duel between leading MVP candidate James Harden and 4-time MVP winner, Lebron James. The end result was a 2-point overtime win for the Rockets over the defending champs. That sounds right, doesn’t it? It was against a defending champ, James, but not the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Over the 53 minutes of gripping action, more than a few story lines emerged. The Rockets seemed to be taking control of the game late in the third quarter when they built a ten point lead in the third quarter and carried an eight-point lead to the final period.

That margin was erased in 88 seconds – all with James on the Cavaliers bench. After the Rockets briefly jumped ahead by six after a pair of 3-pointers, one by Corey Brewer and one from Jason Terry, the teams would not be separated by more than three points for the final eight minutes of regulation.

The Cavs went up three on a long-step back jumper from James with just over three-minutes remaining. 93 seconds later, the Rockets were up three following three strong plays from Harden. He got a pair of Harden free throws after he got past James with nasty crossover seen here:

Then Harden had an assist to Smith at the rim and a driving layup.

Houston got just one shot the rest of regulation (Harden missing a long 3-pointer), while the Cavs would hit 3-of-4 free throws (James went 1-of-2), to tie the game at 98. The final minute of regulation would consist of one Rockets possession – which ended in a turnover. The lone Cavs possession included three misses at rim, followed by three offensive rebounds. After a timeout, James missing a deep step-back jumper just before the buzzer and on to overtime the game went.

In the overtime, the Rockets made only one shot. But it was a big one. Pat Beverley drained a 3-pointer to put Houston in front 102-100 with 3:19 remaining. It was a lead they would not relinquish.

James was just 1-of-4 from the floor and with just 4.2 seconds remaining and the Rockets up one, he stepped to the free throw line for two shots. He had been fouled by Josh Smith, following a strong, determined drive to the basket, but he’d missed the layup. He’d made just one of his last six free throws, before stepped to the line with the lead within reach. Clang. Clang. He missed both, Harden got the rebound and was fouled. James finished the game just 3-of-11 at the free throw line. It’s the first time in his career he has shot as many as 11 free throws and made three or fewer.

The Stats:

LeBron James: 15-35 FG (43%), 4-12 (33%) on 3’s, 3-11 (27.3%) FT, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks, 4 turnovers, 37 points, (-8) in 42:06.

James Harden: 8-18 FG (44%), 2-6 (33%) on 3’s, 15-18 (83%) FT, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 5 turnovers, 33 points, (+14) in 42:21.

Here’s what you need to see and how some described what took place.

The Duel:

 

The Kick:

Harden was assessed a flagrant-1 for the play and there’s little doubt the NBA will look at that play on Monday, and consider whether that foul should be re-classified and/or if Harden deserves a suspension.

(A recent kick from a superstar did earn a 1-game suspension for Dwyane Wade, although Wade was fouled, the foul was called, Wade retaliated, while standing, with a forceful knee to the groin of Ramon Sessions. Both plays are kicks, yet aren’t all that similar otherwise. WATCH below)

Following each game, both Harden and Wade spoke similarly about their respective plays, saying I just reacted to the contact.

The Shove:

The Coverage:

Cavs: Jason Lloyd of Akron Beacon-Journal gives his final 17 thoughts on the Cavs’ tough loss.

National: Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report details the action, giving good perspective from both teams’ viewpoints, including this question and answer: “Who are the Rockets? World-class irritants.”

The Picture:

Following the game, along with their recap, post-game interviews & game photos, the Houston Rockets official twitter account tweeted this.

kingjamesharden

And yes, it caused a big commotion, both initially last night when it was sent and then again this morning, when anyone who’d missed the night before, joined the party. Harmless fun.

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