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James Harden
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Basketball Daily Dose

Harden's 44 points, 17 assists aren't enough

by NBC Sports EDGE Staff
Updated On: December 27, 2020, 5:45 am ET

James Harden and the Rockets team he no longer wants to play for couldn't overcome C.J McCollum's 44 points in a 128-126 loss to the Blazers on Saturday night. This was McCollum's game despite Harden’s 44 points and 17 assists in an attempt to salvage one of the most bizarre opening-day situations imaginable for his franchise.

The Rockets entered the game without John Wall, Eric Gordon, DeMarcus Cousins and more due to self-isolation and quarantine protocols, which left Harden to resume the role he desperately wants to leave as Houston’s star. Harden, who just finished his own quarantine period, controlled the offense all night, draining 12-of-22 shots, including six makes from three. He only turned the ball over four times, and if he hadn’t dropped the ball directly into Robert Covington’s hands on the final play of the night, he could’ve came away with the win.

McCollum was red-hot though, connecting on 17-of-30 shots, including 9-of-16 from range. He also dished eight assists without turning the ball over once, and grabbed three boards and a steal. On an off-night from Damian Lillard, who scored 32 points on 28 shots and turned the ball over five times, the Blazers’ lesser-recognized star was the difference-maker, finding open teammates and launching over close-outs. 

Here’s everything else you missed from a 10-game night. 

The really good

Christian Wood — Wood was awesome in his Rockets debut, finding looks around the rim off well-timed Harden dimes. He double-doubled with 21 points and 13 rebounds, making 14-of-22 shots from the field. Will Wood replicate these totals when Cousins, Wall and Gordon return? How about when Harden inevitably leaves? The Rockets circus is here to stay for now, but hopefully Wood’s play is, too.

Bradley Beal — Beal had a terrific game in the Wizards’ defense-less, 130-120, loss to the Magic. He scored 39 points on 14-of-24 shooting (two made 3s), with seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. It’s a shame about that 'L' though, which, paired with his monster stat-line, gave off extremely 2019-20 Wizards vibes.

Trae Young — Please put Trae Young on national TV more. Hawks-Grizzlies was one of the best games of the night with dueling point guards (Ja Morant) crossing defenders up for 48 minutes. Young got the best of Memphis, though, cementing a second big night on Saturday, scoring 36 points on a lukewarm 10-of-24 shooting with nine assists to just two turnovers, and three rebounds in a 122-112 win. He sunk 15-of-17 free throws, though he hit just one triple out of seven tries. Young’s now averaging 36.5 points per game through the first two of the season. He could be on his way to a true superstar breakout.

Chris Boucher — He’s back! Off the bench, Boucher scored 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting (three made 3s) with 10 rebounds, SEVEN BLOCKS and an assist in 28 minutes. SEVEN BLOCKS. This guy rules. 

Collin Sexton — Sexton in the “really good” category? Hell yeah. In a double-overtime battle for Cade Cunningham, the Cavs knocked off the Pistons, 128-119, thanks to Sexton. The third-year guard scored 32 points on 15-of-23 shooting, and added three assists, three steals and two rebounds. He even knocked in two 3s!

Darius Garland — Can it be? Two Cavs guards in the “really good” category? Garland scored 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting, and double-doubled with 12 assists. He added five rebounds, two steals, and made all three of the 3s he took. Sure this was against the Pistons, and fantasy managers shouldn’t expect this type of production often, but it was nice to see Garland put the pieces together. 

Jerami Grant — MUCH better. After a shaky debut, Detroit’s $60 million man bounced back, scoring 28 points on 9-of-14 shooting with 10 rebounds, three blocks and two assists in 41 minutes. This is the production the Pistons doled out a big-money deal for, and fantasy managers reached for in their draft.   

Blake Griffin — Staying put with this slop of a double-OT game, let’s talk about our latest splash brother... Blake Griffin??? Griffin posted a monster 26-point, 6-rebound, 4-assist, 3-steal night, which included a career-best eight makes from range on 16 attempts. He made only one 2-point attempt all night. Is this what will get him shopped to a better franchise? 

Andre Drummond — Drummond shot poorly, but packed the stat sheet with 23 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks. Again, he shot 7-of-21 from the field (which, yikes for a center), and turned the ball over four times, but he produced big in other areas. 

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The pretty good

Kyle Anderson — With Justise Winslow and Jaren Jackson Jr. out, Slo-mo is playing BIG. He scored 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting (two threes) with 14 rebounds and two blocks in a full 36 minutes in a loss to the Hawks. He’s reached 10 or more boards in consecutive games, and should continue to produce until Winslow or Jackson Jr. return. Fantasy managers should play him now. 

Darius Bazley — With a wide-open rotation, Bazley saw 33 minutes in the first game of OKC’s season, and went to work. He scored 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting, and grabbed 10 boards. A year after averaging just 5.6 points and 4.0 boards in 18.5 minutes, Bazley is worth a try in deeper leagues. The Thunder’s tankathon has just begun, and Bazley could see boosted numbers because of it. 

George Hill — Speaking of the OKC tank, Pacers’ George Hill returned for 24 minutes in a Thunder uniform, scoring 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting with four rebounds and three assists. Will he play this well again? If the Thunder want a first-rounder for him in three months, he better. But it’s unlikely he’ll shoot this well again soon.

Julius RandleObi Toppin sat Saturday night’s game out -- and he’ll miss at least 7-to-10 days until he’s re-evaluated with a calf strain -- giving the floor completely back to Randle at the power forward spot. He capitalized in a 109-89 loss to the Sixers, scoring 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting, with seven rebounds and three assists. He’s looking at boosted numbers for as long as Toppin sits.

Jordan Clarkson — Clarkson’s Sixth Man campaign is off to a hot start, as the Jazz guard poured in 23 points on 8-of-17 shooting off the bench in a 5-point loss to the Timberwolves. He nailed a pair of 3s, and made 5-of-6 free throws, too. He added just three rebounds and no other stats, but points and 3s are all you can consistently ask for from Clarkson.

Chris Paul — It came in a 106-103 losing effort to the Kings, but Paul posted 22 points, 12 assists, five rebounds, two steals and a block in 32 minutes. He shot just 8-of-19, but sunk a pair of threes and 4-of-5 free throws. 

The buzzer-beater

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — In his first game as The Guy in Oklahoma City, Gilgeous-Alexander shook Caleb Martin inside the three-point line and drained the game-winner right before time expired. SGA put up a packed line including 24 points (one made 3), nine assists, seven rebounds, and a block. It came at the cost of shooting efficiency though, as he made just 8-of-20 shots from the field, but the game-winner is all that'll be remembered.

The disappointing

John Collins — Collins had another huge opportunity to produce with Clint Capela and Danilo Gallinari sidelined, but got into foul trouble for the second game out of two. It was kind of a bummer. In 27 minutes, he double-doubled with 13 points (4-of-9 shooting) and 10 rebounds. He didn’t play poorly, but his production was less than expected, and it will continue to be that way until he stops fouling.

Al Horford — A change of scenery will make it all better, right? RIGHT? In his Thunder debut, Horford scored just three points in 28 minutes, making just 1-of-5 shots from the field. He grabbed 13 boards and dished three assists, and that was about it. Yikes. 

Bismack Biyombo — In his first game starting in the injured Cody Zeller’s place, Biyombo put up a lackluster line of five points, nine rebounds and four assists. He made just 2-of-7 shots from the field. At least he blocked two shots. 

The Bulls — All of them. The Bulls have played two games, and been embarrassed in both, losing by a combined 39 points to the Pacers and Hawks. Saturday night’s 19-point loss to Indy featured 37% team shooting from the field and 20 turnovers. What direction is this team going in? Who are the franchise pieces? What happens when they play against title contenders? I don’t have any answers for you in Week 1. 


Karl-Anthony Towns — Towns left the game with just more than five minutes to play after a hard fall on his wrist, and only returned to seal the win as a decoy. He told reporters that he "couldn't catch anything," according to The Pioneer Press's Jace Frederick, which ... doesn't sound great. It's too early to tell the severity of the injury.

Triple-double watch

Domantas Sabonis — Sabonis is off to a hot start to the 2020-21 season, following a 32-point, 13-rebound double-double game with a 22-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound triple-double game. The Pacers demolished the Bulls, 125-106, and Sabonis’s efficient 8-of-11 shooting anchored Indy.  

Dejounte Murray — Murray pulled off his first triple-double in a comeback 119-114 win over the Raptors. He scored 11 points (on a rough 5-of-15 shooting), but grabbed 10 boards and dished 10 assists to just two turnovers.

Russell Westbrook — The triple-double guy triple-doubled. If you drafted Westbrook at this point in his career, you knew the shooting numbers (6-of-19) and turnovers (five) would be ugly, and they were. But he scored 13 points with 12 rebounds and 12 assists.

Rookie watch

Anthony Edwards — Has there been a less-hyped No. 1 pick in recent memory? Someone please talk about this guy. He had a second really good game on Saturday, scoring 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting (2-of-3 from deep) with a rebound, assist and two steals in 22 minutes. 

LaMelo Ball — Good news! LaMelo Ball put the basketball in the hoop this time. After a scoreless debut, Ball scored 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, and drained 2-of-4 from range. He played just 15 minutes off the bench, and appears to have to really earn his share despite being the No. 3 pick in the 2020 draft.

Deni Avdija — Avdija saw just 15 minutes on Saturday night, which was nearly half his debut (28). He scored just five points with three rebounds and two assists. Despite being a starter, Avdija is nowhere close to being a reliable fantasy option. 

Back to Earth you go

Terry Rozier — Rozier’s 42-point season-opener on 15-of-23 shooting was not replicated in his second game. On Saturday, he scored a much more realistic 19 points on a rough 5-of-15 shooting night. He drained just two 3s after his 10-make night. 

Shake Milton — After scoring just nine points per game last year, Milton’s 19-point opener felt like a reach. On Saturday he played fine, scoring 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting with no assists and three turnovers. Treat the Sixers’ opener as a treat.

RJ Barrett — Knicks fans were so excited when Barrett shot the ball efficiently in the team’s opener on Wednesday, but on Saturday, they were given the harsh reminder that won’t happen every game. He scored just 10 points on 2-of-15 shooting (ew), as the Knicks Knicks’ed to the Sixers by 20 points. 

Should I pick him or him?

Kevin Huerter & Bogdan Bogdanovic — Bogdanovic and Huerter are similar-level players, with their paychecks being the big separator. Bogdanovic just inked a four-year, $72 million deal, while Huerter plays out his rookie contract. Bogdanovic got the starting nod over Huerter in this one, but it was the Maryland product who carried the scoring load. Huerter finished with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including four threes out of five tries, along with four assists and two rebounds. Bogdanovic struggled despite playing 32 minutes to Huerter’s 26, scoring just seven points on 2-of-10 shooting. He was benched to start the second half in favor of Bruno Fernando. Both Huerter and Bogdanovic could be hit-or-miss choices in DFS until one proves to be consistent over the other.

Killian Hayes & Derrick Rose — Hayes, the rookie, has the starting role, but for the second game in a row, Rose was handed the keys. Rose closed out the game for Detroit, playing 33 minutes to Hayes’s 19.5, and scored 13 points to the rookie’s three. Neither shot the ball well, but it looks like the Pistons aren’t ready to fully cede Rose’s PG role to the next generation. 

Wait who?

Nathan Knight — Knight, a 23-year-old, two-way player from William & Mary, outscored John Collins on Saturday in one-third of his minutes. With Clint Capela sidelined and Collins in foul trouble, he scored 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting, including two makes from deep on three attempts all in just eight minutes. He looked really impressive in a short span of time, but I wouldn’t expect this output with any regularity. Fantasy managers should only snag him if they’re desperate for a brief fill-in with upside.

Thanks for reading my first Daily Dose! My name is Matt Ellentuck, and you can find me on Twitter @mellentuck