NBA.COM – 3rd – It was an illness that kept James Harden out of Sunday’s win in Phoenix, but his first missed game of the season gives his aching wrist four full days off between games. He had shot 29 percent over his last three, the Rockets’ first three-game losing streak (and their worst offensive stretch) of the season. Ryan Anderson’s absence (over the last five games) has also been a factor, but he could be back by Friday’s game against Detroit. The Rockets’ regular starters have outscored their opponents by 22.9 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break, the best mark among 29 lineups that have played at least 100 post-break minutes.
CBSSPORTS.COM – 4th – The sense I get from talking to voters and judging various comments and articles around the league is that Harden is in the lead for MVP. Westbrook is trying to catch him, but needs to notch the most triple-doubles in a season and the season average triple-double mark to overcome Harden. Harden, on the other hand, needs to rest. He missed Sunday’s game with the flu and is quietly battling a wrist injury. The MVP matters, but he’s made his case. His team needs him in better condition for the playoffs.
ESPN.COM – 4th – James Harden probably can’t win no matter what he does with that banged-up left wrist. If he keeps playing hurt, there’s a good chance he dings his MVP résumé. If he sits, critics will inevitably surface with claims that he’s looking to protect his stats more than anything. The view here, then, is that how the wrist impacts Houston’s playoff hopes should be the only consideration. If playing on doesn’t put Harden at risk for hurting it worse, then let him go. But the flu-like symptoms that knocked him out of Sunday’s visit to Phoenix might not have been the worst thing; perhaps the enforced rest will recharge Harden after a rough shooting week lowlighted by Houston’s first three-game losing streak of the season. Friday night’s loss at Golden State brought a halt to Houston’s record run of 61 consecutive games with at least 100 points, but that’s not the real team stat of note with these guys. File this one away: Houston is 34-4 this season when it splashes 15 3s … but only 18-21 when it falls short. Can the Rockets splash with something approaching that sort of regularity when it matters most and things tighten up in the playoffs?
SI.COM – 4th – I know the MVP race is still basically in the balance, but James Harden has the flu and a bum wrist and nobody can really blame the Rockets for holding him out. Just shut it all the way down. It’s been too fun of a year.
ROTOWORLD.COM – 4th – The Rockets dropped three straight games in Week 23 to the Blazers and Warriors twice, but bounced back against the Suns in Phoenix despite missing James Harden (illness) and Trevor Ariza (personal). Speaking of Harden, he is the first player in NBA history to score and assist for 2,000 points in the same season, but he’s having a tough time with his ailing left wrist — he’s shooting just 37.4 percent from the field and 23.5 percent from deep over his last five games.