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Rockets Star James Harden Suspended For Tuesday In Atlanta
James Harden got the best of LeBron James in a duel of MVP candidates on Sunday, but also had a really cheap play that will cost him playing in Tuesday night's game in Atlanta. During the third quarter between the Cavs and Rockets, the Houston shooting guard, after falling on the ground for a loose ball, gave James a direct shot with his left foot in the groin area — apparently on purpose. James was pulled away from Harden as he screamed at him, and Corey Brewer and Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson both received technical fouls from the ensuing argument.
Harden was given a technical foul. The MVP front-runner had 33 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks in the 105-103 victory, playing a particularly large role in the fourth quarter and overtime. Harden, who was unavailable for comment on Monday, said on Sunday that he did not believe his action would merit a suspension. He was called for a flagrant foul 1, which does not require an ejection, but the NBA's president of basketball operations, Rod Thorn, upgraded the call to a flagrant foul 2 in giving the suspension.
Harden is keeping the Rockets afloat. Dwight Howard has missed nearly half of the season with injuries, and the Rockets are a flat-out bad team when Harden is off the court (4.5 points per 100 possessions worse than their opponents). He went from being a laughingstock for his defense to being aggressive and convincing on that end for the first time in years. He leads the NBA in points (27.1 per game) and minutes played. And the advanced stats like him too as Harden leads in Basketball-Reference's total win shares and ESPN's Real Plus-Minus.
Hawks Pulling Away In East
The Hawks lead the Eastern Conference by a wide margin and carry a four-game winning streak into this one. They won 93-91 in Miami on Saturday despite resting four regulars -- Al Horford didn't even make the trip because his wife just had a baby, while Pero Antic, DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Teague were all given the night off. The Hawks are now 34-3 when holding opponents under 100 points. The Hawks are second in the NBA in fewest points allowed (96.4) and are one-of-two teams (Portland) to rank in the Top 10 in both scoring (seventh, 102.6) and fewest points allowed per game.
The Hawks won the first meeting in Houston on 12/20 (104-97). Kyle Korver scored a game-high 22 points (7-12 FGs, 4-8 3FGs), and Horford recorded 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three blocks for the Hawks. Howard (19 points/11 rebounds), and James Harden (18 points/14 assists) recorded double-doubles for Houston. Atlanta has won two straight overall against the Rockets, including the last meeting at Philips Arena on 1/10/14 (83-80). Houston’s last win in the series was a 113-84 home decision on 11/27/13, with the last win at Philips Arena coming on 11/2/12 (109-102).
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