The Houston Rockets got a nice Christmas present today with a victory over the first place San Antonio Spurs by the score of 111-98. The win moved the Rockets to within 3 1/2 games of first place in the Southwest Division. The game also so the return of All-Star guard James Harden from an ankle injury.
Rotoworld.com reported Harden's return to the lineup, scoring 28 points with six rebounds, six assists, two blocked shots and three 3-point field goals. He played 42 minutes and showed no signs are problems with his ankle. After missing his two previous games, Harden appears to be ready to get things going again on the court.
There is some concern because of the fact that Harden has been dealing with injuries to both of his feet, as well as the recent ankle sprain. His aggressive style of play could take its toll in the long run unless he gets some addition rest. Francisco Garcia, who started in Harden's absence, could take some of the load off. But with Patrick Beverley out of the lineup and Jeremy Lin recently returning from back spasms, Harden may continue to log 40 plus minutes per game. He is averaging 38.3 minutes per game this year, up from his career average of a little over 30 minutes per game.
Harden is in his 5th season out of Arizona State. After averaging 9.9 points per game in his rookie season, Harden improved to 12.2, 16.8 and then 25.9 points per game over the next three seasons. Last year was his All-Star season. This year, Harden continues to play at an All-Star level, averaging 23.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. The Rockets will continue to need a healthy and productive Harden the rest of the season to make a strong push in the Western Conference.