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James Harden must be hiding an Infinity Stone in his beard

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NBA: Houston Rockets at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

James Harden dropped 48 and seven on the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, which is not terribly surprising because James Harden has been a scoring maniac all season. How he did it — hitting six threes and 18 free throws — is worth marveling over.

That had only been done twice in modern NBA history: when Kobe scored 81 and by Allan Houston on a 50-point night in 2003. The combination allowed Harden to score 1.6 points per shooting possession, which is incredible!

Harden was just part of the story as the Rockets dropped fricking 90 points in the first half, tied for second-highest first half total ever. (The 1990 Suns once dropped an absurd 107 points in the first half, which ... what?!) The Rockets ended up with just 143 in a blowout, moving back into the No. 1 seed with Golden State's loss in Boston.

Harden is now averaging 32 and 10 on hyperefficient shooting for a top team. He is, at this point, the front-runner for MVP. There's a lot of runway left this season, but Harden has grabbed it by the horns and doesn't look like he's going to let go until he gets the hardware he feels he deserves.

Scores Galore ...

GSW 88, BOS 92
HOU 142, PHX 116

... And So Much More

The way the Boston Celtics beat the Warriors has the makings of an origin story for a new NBA superpower. Golden State looked like it would cruise to a statement victory of its own, going up by 17 with five minutes left in the third quarter. But the Celtics went on a 19-2 run to finish that quarter and enter the fourth tied. How? Jaylen Brown, Jaylen Brown, Jaylen Brown. In the fourth, Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum finished the job by attacking relentlessly, and Boston's famous defense was as good as any we've seen all season. This was a game we won't soon forget.

(Andre Iguodala had some good dunks, though.)

Jaylen Brown is special. His big night in Boston came a day after he lost his best friend. Here's Paul Flannery from the Garden on how Brown found the strength. What a phenomenal story. Prayers to Brown and all those touched by Trevin Steede.

Kyrie asked out of Cleveland because he wanted to be more than what he could be in LeBron's shadow. Zito Madu notes that this is exactly what's happening.

I wrote about the miracle of Robert Covington, the true survivor of The Process.

The Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons combo is just devastating. I get real Shaq-Penny vibes from them: the dominant force in the middle and the cool genius on the outside.

A terrifying yet accurate headline: Evan Turner is key to the Blazers' success.

Adam Silver and Michele Roberts met with Condi Rice's NCAA reform commission on Thursday, reports Woj. The most interesting nugget in there is that Woj indicates the deal the NBA and players' union might broker to end the one-and-done era could allow high school players to enter the NBA draft (as was the case before the age minimum was adopted in 2005) but that any player going to college can't enter the draft until two years have passed from high school graduation. I think there are interesting possibilities with the G League, but this works.

Kevin Durant is shockingly open about not wanting to be a leader. This is actually fine. I'm all for pushing yourself to extend out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself. But there's no reason to force something if it's not in you.

Draymond Green spoke at Harvard, addressing Mark Cuban's backlash to his comments about the improper use of the word "owner" in pro sports and more.

Zach Lowe on the Nuggets' many, many question marks.

Damian Lillard's new glow-in-the-dark shoe is inspired by his love of roller skating. We are near trend status on NBA point guards who love roller skating.

Three experts tell Michael Sykes why Nike's jerseys keep ripping.

John Wall has taken his shot-blocking to a whole new level.

Holy smokes y'all, the Celtics have won 14 straight!

Be excellent to each other.