NBA News & Notes: James Harden and Russell Westbrook continue to shine

December 10, 2016

Former teammates (how scary is that) and Pac-12 rivals James Harden and Russell Westbrook continue to put up monster numbers this season, as they have almost single-handedly carried their respective teams into playoff contention.  Their torrid pace is so atypical that it has started to conjure up memories of the game's historical greats.  For more on this and other top NBA stories, read below:

NBA denies Raptors official protest

The National Basketball Association announced that it has denied the Toronto Raptors’ protest of their 102-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Nov. 20, 2016.

The Raptors’ protest asserted that the game officials incorrectly called for an instant replay review of whether the Raptors’ Terrence Ross released a three-point shot prior to the expiration of actual time remaining in the game.  The Replay Center official reviewed video of the play using a digital timer and determined that the actual time remaining in the game expired before Ross released his shot, and the shot therefore did not count.

The league found that calling for an instant replay review in this case was consistent with the playing rules because the game officials determined that there was a clock malfunction on the play.

Harden and Westbrook looking like Tiny and the Big O

With Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook scoring and dishing at prodigious rates, it automatically brings to mind two of the all-time greats: Tiny Archibald and Oscar Robertson.

Archibald is the only player to lead the NBA in scoring and assists for a season, a feat he accomplished during the 1972-73 season, when he averaged 34.0 points and 11.3 assists with the Kansas City/Omaha Kings. He and Robertson are the only players to average at least 28.0 points and 11.0 assists in a season. Robertson did it three times with the Cincinnati Royals -- 1961-62, 1964-65 and 1965-66.

Harden and Westbrook are on track to join that elite company. Harden ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring (28.5 ppg) and leads the league in assists (11.4 apg). Westbrook is second in scoring (31.0 ppg) and assists (11.3 apg). No player has ever averaged at least 28.0 points and 12.0 assists for a season.

Talkin' Smack

Rob Mahoney, “It is the coincidence of a lifetime that one of the game’s most naturally athletic players [Cleveland’s LeBron James] also turned out to be one of its brightest minds.”

Ben Cohen, Wall Street Journal: “[Oklahoma City’s Russell] Westbrook is stretching the limits of how much a single basketball player can accomplish.”

DeMar DeRozan, Raptors guard: “I’m not a fluke player; we’re not an accident team.”

Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer: “It’s never been easier to appreciate the league. … If only George R.R. Martin could write The Winds of Winter at the same rate that the NBA churns out vibrant, interesting stories.”

NBA reschedules Kings-76ers game

The National Basketball Association announced that the Nov. 30 game between the Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia 76ers, which was postponed due to unsafe playing conditions on the arena floor, has been rescheduled for Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, at 6 p.m. ET at Wells Fargo Center.

The Numbers

Memphis Grizzlies: Dramatic victories continue to be their trademark. Memphis is 11-0 this season in games with a margin of three points or fewer in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime. Each victory during the Grizzlies’ active four-game winning streak has been by five points or fewer. The Grizzlies have been getting a big lift from 25-year-old guard Troy Daniels, who is averaging 21.6 points and shooting 47.7 percent from three-point range over his last five games.

Jimmy Butler, Bulls: The two-time All-Star has scored at least 20 points in 15 straight games, a career-best streak and the longest in the NBA this season. It is the longest streak by a Bulls player since Michael Jordan’s 24-game streak during the 1995-96 season.

Eric Gordon, Rockets: Houston is 6-1 in its last seven games and Gordon has averaged 21.4 points in 29.7 minutes during that stretch. The first-year Rocket has made at least four three-pointers in all seven games (34-of-68, 50 percent) to bring his season total to 75, second in the NBA behind Stephen Curry’s 86.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks: Wednesday’s triple-double raised his career total with Milwaukee to seven, one shy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s franchise record. Milwaukee has won five of its last six games.

Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert, Jazz: During Utah’s current stretch of seven victories in eight games, Hayward is averaging 27.0 points on 49.6 percent shooting from the field and 50.0 percent from three-point range, while Gobert is contributing 13.8 points, 12.9 rebounds and 3.4 blocks.

Lou Williams, Lakers: The 30-year-old guard is leading the Lakers and all NBA reserves in scoring at 18.7 points. Williams, the 2014-15 NBA Sixth Man Award winner, is shooting 45.7 percent from the field.

Secondary Assists: According to, the Warriors lead the NBA in secondary assists per game (10.5), otherwise known as the hockey assist -- the pass prior to the actual assist. No other team is averaging more than 6.5 secondary assists. Stephen Curry leads the NBA in secondary assists with 2.3 per game. Draymond Green is tied for fourth (1.7).

Al Horford, Celtics: In his last two games, Horford has led all players in assists (nine on Monday in a loss to the Rockets and eight on Wednesday in a win over the Magic). Before this week, Horford was the outright leader in assists five times in his career.

Quinn Cook, Canton Charge: The 2015-16 NBA Development League Rookie of the Year scored a franchise-record 49 points and added 11 assists in a 134-128 victory over the Texas Legends on Wednesday.

DeAndre Liggins, Cleveland Cavaliers: Liggins, who won the NBA D-League Defensive Player of the Year Award last season and in 2013-14, made his first start with Cleveland (and second of his career) in Wednesday’s victory over New York.

Spurs playing well on road

San Antonio won 13 consecutive road games to open the season, one shy of Golden State's record when they began last season with a 14-game road winning streak as part of a 24-0 start overall.  Although the Spurs' streak ended last week in Chicago, it looks like business as usual for Coach Pop and company, as San Antonio's transition away from the Tim Duncan era has been relatively seamless thus far.

The longest road winning streak in NBA history belongs to the 1971-72 Lakers, who won 16 straight from Nov. 6, 1971, through Jan. 7, 1972.

By Staff of and news services

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