CHICAGO - After beating the Golden State Warriors in overtime, 135-134, last Friday at the Oracle Arena, the Houston Rockets and their fans were so overjoyed you'd think they just won all the marbles.
But wait, let's slap 'em boys back to their senses with a little reality check: The NBA Finals - three of which the Warriors have pocketed in the last four years - are played in June.
All that kerfuffle for nothing. Truth is, the wildly entertaining shootout was nothing more than a shaggy carpet ride on a meaningless January schedule.
James Harden waltzed to his fifth straight 40-plus point game and second triple-double of the week. But pardon my lack of enthusiasm because, to me, Harden is the most unaesthetically unlikable scorer I've seen since starting my NBA writing career at a Cebu newspaper in 1993.
In the the staple that is the NBA, Harden reminds me of brown rice; so healthy, so calorie-conscious, yet utterly undelicious.
He pads his stats with 10.9 free throws a game, a bulk of which comes from, arguably, flopped calls. He chucks poorly selected field goals, which explains why he shoots only 43.7 percent from the field in 35 games this season. He also turns the ball over 5.6 times a contest, negating his 8.5 assists per.
And he travels more often than a retired accountant.
So yeah, wake me up in May, deep in the playoffs. Let's see if Harden can do more than what he does best under the brightest stage - shrink.
After beating the Warriors, which many overvalued as a "season-turning" triumph, the Rockets lost to the Blazers, 110-100. Harden somehow manufactured 38 points but he missed 22 of 35 field goals and made only five of 17 triples.
Sure, he did have seven free throws and seven assists, but he also had seven turnovers. Talk about twisted symmetry.
By the same token, the Warriors, who stupidly lost a six-point lead with 1:09 to go in regulation by playing hero ball and hoisting ill-advised 3s way early into the shot clock, quickly bounced back from their bone-headed performance with a 127-123 win that saw them disrobe the Kings with 21 treys.
Now, that's a champ. And they'll be just that until some other team beats them four times in seven games this June.
FREE-FALLING LAKERS. The Los Angeles Lakers without LeBon James is like Malacanang Palace without Duterte, the PBA without Ginebra.
No leadership. No fun.
Since the King went down with a strained groin last Christmas Day, the Lakers have won only once in six starts. Their last debacle was a 108-86 drubbing this morning at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who celebrated the massacre by surprisingly firing team president and head coach Tom Thibodeau.
To get an idea how misguided the Lakers were on Sunday, here's some inglorious stats.
They scored just five points in the first seven minutes of play while happily conceding 22 to the Timberwolves. They missed 55 of 87 field goals and clunked 12 of 17 triples. They also bungled 11 of 28 free throws.
LeBron will miss two more games before returning to action. Meanwhile the bleeding will continue.
Up next for the Lakers is a trip to Dallas to play the Mavericks and a home game against the Detroit Pistons. Minus LeBron, Rajon Rondo (finger surgery) and Kyle Kuzma (back spasms), the Lakers could fall to 21-21 in the standings and out of the magic eight in the Western Conference.
Based on last season's play, where the No.8 ranked Timberwolves needed 47 victories to qualify, the Lakers must win 26 of their last 42 games to make the postseason.
Are they a team - assuming they get all the pieces back in shape - that can win 10 games over .500 from tomorrow until their final game on April 9?
With Lebron, yes, anything is possible.
I just don't see it happening.