James Harden's 30-Point Streak Snapped as Rockets Beat Trae Young, Hawks

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2019

HOUSTON, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 25: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets drives to the basket against the Atlanta Hawks during the second quarter at Toyota Center on February 25, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets defeated the Atlanta Hawks 119-111 on Monday at Toyota Center in Houston.

James Harden, who missed Houston's 118-112 win over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday with a cervical strain, returned to the Rockets lineup and scored 28 points. He snapped his streak of scoring at least 30 points at 32 games. Chris Paul was two assists short of a double-double (20 points, eight dimes), and the pair of Eric Gordon and Gerald Green combined for 27 points off the bench.

Trae Young, who has steadily improved over the course of his rookie season, shot 13-of-23 from the field and 8-of-12 from three-point range en route to a 36-point night. John Collins also posted a double-double (20 points, 12 rebounds).

      

Kenneth Faried Deserves Place in Starting Lineup for Full-Strength Rockets

Monday was the first time Kenneth Faried started for the Rockets when both Clint Capela and James Harden were healthy. The eight-year veteran responded to that show of faith from head coach Mike D'Antoni by scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

In general, Faried did exactly what was asked of him.

Having made just two career three-pointers prior to this season, he's also showing some nice shooting range, which is important in Houston's three-heavy offense.

Because his role with the Denver Nuggets slowly diminished over a long period of time, it was easy to forget how productive Faried was at his peak in the Mile High City. He averaged 18.1 points and 11.3 rebounds per 36 minutes in 2013-14, according to Basketball Reference.

With the Rockets, Faried has a clear set of objectives on the court, which is helping him rediscover his old self.

When it comes to the postseason, Houston will go as far as Harden and Paul can take the team. The Rockets' supporting cast will have to do their part to ensure Harden and Paul aren't shouldering too large a burden, though.

Right now, Faried is providing great energy, and his rebounding—particularly on the offensive end—is making a big difference. After Monday, D'Antoni has little reason to bump him back down to the bench.

       

Trae Young Slowly Closing Gap on Luka Doncic in Rookie of the Year Race

Although it's only February, Luka Doncic might have already built an unsurmountable lead in the battle for Rookie of the Year.

"I don't think the race is over," Young said when posed with that argument, per The Athletic's Chris Kirschner.

Young is doing his best to back up his assessment. The No. 5 overall pick is basically having his second-year breakthrough ahead of schedule. Point guards generally need a full season before the game starts slowing down. Young, on the other hand, is already finding his comfort zone.

To some extent, Young is benefiting from playing on a bad team. He's Atlanta's primary playmaker, and he has a lot of freedom to spot up inside half court.

Whereas Young mostly had the volume without the efficiency earlier into his rookie campaign, he's beginning to show the kind of consistency that could make him an All-Star point guard. Adding in Monday's loss, he's shooting 43.9 percent from beyond the arc in 11 games this month.

Of course, keeping this in perspective is important. According to ESPN.com, Doncic is 58th in real plus-minus (plus-1.80), while Young is all the way down at 451st (minus-3.34). As much as Young is progressing on offense, his defense isn't very good—to put it lightly.

But what looked to be shaping up as a ROY coronation for Doncic may grow closer over the stretch run with Young making such big strides.

     

What's Next?

The Hawks return home Wednesday for a matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Rockets have a brief one-game road trip Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets before going back to Houston on Thursday to play the Miami Heat.

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