After multiple failed attempts to see this dynamic duo in action, the stars finally aligned and made this event possible. Since the trade announcement of Chris Paul to Houston, I have been waiting to see him and James Harden play together. Previous attempts throughout this season forced me to see them play solo as the other one was out for rest or injured. This game was not one that was on my radar to attend and like most of my adventures happened at the absolute last minute. After arriving home from work, I turned to ESPN and the pregame show was on for the Minnesota Timberwolves vs Houston Rockets game. Still with no thoughts of attending the game, I waited for tip-off and began watching the game like most Houstonians do when the Rockets are on television.
While watching the game, I witnessed James Harden get off to a hot start and record 13 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds in the 1st quarter. At this moment, I grabbed my keys, unlocked the door and told my wife it was time to head towards Toyota Center. Upon arrival, I was able to see a who’s who of NBA elite from the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins. Most importantly, I was able to see The General and The Beard.
I have watched James Harden and Chris Paul play on television throughout the 2017-18 season and put together eye popping numbers but see it live was another experience. Seeing the effortless motion that they play with and how each player maintains the offensive flow was amazing. The Houston Rockets are currently the NBA’s best team as they hold a slight lead over the Golden State Warriors. I personally have not been a fan of Mike D’Antoni lead teams because of their lack of defensive effort but this team is different. He has something that he has never had before in these two players and he is working it to perfection.
Upon walking in Toyota Center, I was welcomed by a barrage of three pointers by both teams. There were only 4 threes made but 19 shots were attempted. It’s fun to see this many threes attempted but the game is sort of sped up because of all of the shots being taken. The way the game has changed over a short number of years is impressive to me and the Rockets are one of the teams that have maximized their potential.
The unit that I witnessed on the floor when I arrived was Chris Paul running with Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Gerald Green and Clint Capela. This group was very effective and CP3 ran the floor like a General and easily navigated through the defense. I had never seen Joe Johnson in action so his recent acquisition was well timed with my visit. Chris Paul found his teammates early and often throughout the 2nd quarter and make light work of the Timberwolves. With 5:11 left in the half, Harden replaced CP3 and the offense continued to roll after the transition of power.
At the conclusion of the first half, I was able to draw a conclusion that the Rockets are a team built to make a run for the title. They have the ability to alternate two future hall of fame point guards and not lose any offensive effectiveness. That is a rarity and something the league has not seen since the 70’s with Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe sharing a backcourt. The two greats rarely share the floor together although they both play more than 30 minutes a game.
The second half was the beginning of the end for the Minnesota Timberwolves in this ballgame. Harden, Paul and Capela imposed their will during the third quarter and that’s when I was able to see the dynamic duo in action together. Minnesota is lead by a defensive minded head coach, but he had no answer for both point guards and their cast of 3 point shooters. The way they run the high pick and roll with both guards is hard for teams to guard against. When James gets into the zone and starts cooking he is impossible to stop. When CP3 finds his groove off of the pick he cannot be stopped from the mid-range or from deep.
The fourth quarter was more of the same from the Rockets as they closed out the Timberwolves as they continued to alternate Harden and Paul. The combined numbers of 45 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds from James Harden and Chris Paul lead the team as they won by 18 points. There are not many words that I can add to the greatness that I displayed on the floor but I will say that it is interesting. It is hard to figure out the Rockets rotations for CP3 and Harden but D’Antoni has figured it out. I do not know if it will work in the playoffs but as for the regular season, we are witnessing two of the greatest prove a lot of doubters wrong by consistently winning.
With all that has happened to the Houston area within the last 6 months, the city is behind this team more than ever. The Astros started the train and the Rockets are trying to ride the wave to a title of their own. The spirits were raised around the city after the Astros pulled off the unthinkable and now the city believes. Although I am not a fan of the Rockets, this is a movement that I can stand behind and support.