Tuesday night was a big one for one team — and two players and two other teams, too.
The Houston Rockets have risen to the top of the Western Conference basically since the calendar turned to 2018 this season. They entered last night with a 15-game win streak, which was tied for the second-longest run in team history. After topping the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road 122-112, this season’s squad took over sole possession of that No. 2 spot in Rockets annals.
Behind Chris Paul (25 points) and Kia MVP favorite James Harden (23 points, 11 assists), the Rockets took down a Thunder squad that had logged wins this season against Golden State (twice), Toronto and Cleveland. Yet to Harden, per The Associated Press, he had a blunt answer when asked what Houston’s win streak means to him.
“‘Nothing,” he said. ”Nothing at all. We just want to play well. We want to play well and have each other’s back, no matter what, on both ends of the floor. It doesn’t matter. Wins and losses will come.”
Pelicans’ Davis stays hot
Yet the Rockets aren’t the only team in the West getting attention of late.
The New Orleans Pelicans are surging, having won nine straight games behind the play of All-Star big man Anthony Davis. In last night’s showdown with the playoff-hopeful LA Clippers, Davis went off once again, logging 41 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and three blocks in a 121-116 New Orleans win. He scored 31 of those points in the second half, as he left the game in the second quarter with a rib contusion.
“DeMarcus [Cousins] told me at halftime, he said if you’re not going back in, let me get your Achilles,” Davis told the Players Only crew after Tuesday’s game.
“DeMarcus told me at halftime, he said if you’re not going back in, let me get your Achilles,”- @AntDavis23
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) March 7, 2018
Davis has been a one-man wrecking crew during this run, as he has scored no fewer than 23 points in a game during this win streak. He’s averaging 37.7 points, 14.6 rebounds, 2.8 steals and three blocks per game while shooting 53.2 percent overall and 41.9 percent on 3-pointers during the nine-game win streak.
He also has six games of 35-plus points during that span. Perhaps most key, though, is that the Pelicans are 8-0 this season when Davis logs 40 or more points in a game.
“He is just playing on a really high level and nothing seems to affect him,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said of Davis. “That is a really tough (rib) injury right there. It feels like somebody is sticking an icepick in your side when you are trying to breathe with those bruised ribs and stuff like that. But he played through it and did a great job.”
Set your clocks to ‘Dame Time’
The win keeps New Orleans in the chase for the No. 3 seed, which is held by the Portland Trail Blazers. They’ve been making noise as well, with an All-Star of their own leading the charge.
Damian Lillard dropped 37 points on the visiting New York Knicks last night in a 111-87 Blazers romp. Much like Davis, Lillard has put his team on his back and done a yeoman’s share of the work as the Blazers have won eight in a row.
Portland’s eight-game winning streak marks its longest since Nov. 9-26, 2014 as the Blazers grew their lead in the Northwest Division to 1 1/2 games.
During this streak — which began on Valentine’s Day — Lillard has given Portland fans reason after reason to love their go-to guy.
He’s averaging 33.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 5.8 apg and 1.3 spg while shooting 47.1 percent overall and 41.8 percent on 3-pointers during the win streak, which included victories against teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors.
Lillard made team history during the streak as well. He has now scored 354 points over the past 10 games, more than any Trail Blazer has scored in a 10-game span in team history. And for good measure, Lillard further etched his place in team history last night. First, he passed Cliff Robinson for No. 4 on the team’s all-time scoring list and by game’s end, had passed former teammate LaMarcus Aldridge for third on the team’s all-time free throws made list.
Dame Time times ten pic.twitter.com/eZksxN6MBd
— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) March 7, 2018
Per ESPN Stats & Information, Tuesday marked Lillard’s 11th 35-point game of the season, which ties him for the most he had in any season of his career.
Tonight marks the 11th 35-point game this season for @Dame_Lillard, tied for his most in any season in his career (he had 11 last season). pic.twitter.com/xqkXvygzAK
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 7, 2018
“We’ve been on a good run, just playing good basketball on both ends of the floor,” Lillard said. “Our team has been on a string; we’ve been really connected.”
“Dame was just in a great groove,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said last night. “He’s been in a groove for awhile. He was shooting it easy, feeling confident.”