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NBA ICYMI: James Harden Nearly Upstages Calvin Murphy and His Jacket

Everything you need to know about Sunday in the NBA

NBA: Utah Jazz at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina/USA Today

All the need-to-know info from Sunday’s slate.


Take a (Very Accurate) Bow, James Harden

Look, if James Harden could pitch like he shot Sunday night, during a 137-110 Utah stomping, Houston would’ve won the World Seri—oh, right.

Harden finished with a career-high 56 points and 13 assists in 35 minutes, shooting 19-for-25 from the field, 7-for-8 from deep, and 11-for-12 from the free throw line. Harden beat his previous career high (53 points last New Year’s Eve against the Knicks) by the end of the third. Those 54 points to that point had been stockpiled with such precision that his effective field goal percentage (which adjusts to account for the added value of a 3-pointer) was higher than 100 percent. The Beard was, in that moment, more than perfect.

Harden was yanked soon after in the fourth, just one point short of tying the franchise’s single-game point record, set on March 18, 1978, by Calvin Murphy.

And, hey! Murphy was in attendance:

Ordinarily, someone whose record is about to be broken might be nervous. But people who pull off sequin-studded jackets don’t get nervous.

(Sorry, Calvin Murphy and Calvin Murphy’s very fly jacket, but I think it’s only a matter of time and 3-pointers before Harden gets there.)

WTF, Cleveland?

Ramshackle, slack, injury-prone—it’s not Day 3 of a nursing home Spades tournament; it’s your 2017-18 Cavaliers! LeBron and Co. suffered their most troubling loss of the season Sunday, falling 117-115 to a chewed up and spit-out (speaking of a nursing home) version of last season’s Atlanta Hawks.

The ousting, Cleveland’s fifth loss in six games, marks the team’s lowest point this season. Yes, Orlando beat the Cavs by 21 points October 21, and yes, they fell 114-95 to the Knicks a week after, and fine, yes, last Wednesday, the Pacers also dropped them, 124-107.

But Atlanta? And at home? And after a team meeting? The Hawks were without five of their rotation players, raising the question of who the hell is left on that roster. Can you name five of Atlanta’s rotation players? No cheating, and no, Kris Humphries is out of the league now.

Atlanta turned over the ball six times in the fourth quarter, either by stepping out of bounds or from sloppiness or chucking a bad pass—what’s expected of, say, a G-League team, which [checks bench] ... [checks end score] ... never mind. It didn’t matter at the final buzzer that the Hawks relied on John Collins and Isaiah Taylor; it didn’t even matter that Taylor missed the final two free throws, keeping the Cavs within two points. Cleveland gave what was supposed to be a bottom-feeding team a win, once again.

Boston Has Won Eight Straight, but More Importantly, This Dime:

Kyrie Irving finished with a very subdued stat line of 11 points and five assists in the Celtics’ 104-88 win over Orlando. That doesn’t make these assists any less beautiful.

A Point Guard–Less Affair

John Wall, recovering from a sprained left shoulder, was declared out for the Wizards’ game against the Raptors hours before tipoff on Sunday. But his contributions nearly matched opposing point guard Kyle Lowry, who was booted in fewer than 20 regulation minutes:

After a quick technical turned double-technical turned ejection, Lowry exited. But not before, most adorably, kissing his son (which, in my opinion, should’ve been considered for immediate reinstatement to the game).

This Is Now the Most Interesting Thing About the Cavs

(H/T The Ringer’s very own Pat Muldowney.)

The Space Between Kristaps and the Rim Is Just a Number

Speaking of New York’s Son …

Kristaps Porzingis was no guarantee to play Sunday against the Pacers, thanks to a left ankle injury. He did, thankfully, in a Knicks game that felt like a street fortune teller grabbing every New Yorker’s palm and gushing oddly specific optimism about unicorns and rings. New York overcame a 19-point deficit to win 108-101. The old-school Garden thrill was there, but my favorite moment had little to do with the Knicks and more to do with one Lance Stephenson:

Porzingis put up a career-high 40 points in 38 minutes, scoring 15 straight to reach 31. In seven of the Knicks’ nine games this season, the 22-year-old reached 30 or more points—the most of any player in the NBA.

The King Meets the (Taurean Waller) Prince

The Ruins of Lob Cit—Oh

Clippers Cut Short

After a passive start, the Clips snapped out of their collective sleep paralysis to climb back from a 25-point deficit against Miami—only for Blake Griffin to be forced into a deep jumper just inside the perimeter:

And for the Clippers to lose, 104-101. Kudos to both Sir Whiteside and Miami for an aggressive defensive showing, but Los Angeles might’ve still been reeling from the day before. Memphis knocked them, 113-104, Saturday; losing to the Heat could prompt an early diagnosis that these Clippers—who began 4-0—will regress into the unexceptional franchise squads of yesteryear.

I think they just need a nap.

I Believe Jakob Poeltl Can Fly