Different results for banged-up stars
Harden could have had a very ugly night in Oakland. He was only 7-of-22 from the field (ending a run of eight straight games in which he shot at least 45 percent) and briefly left the game after stepping on David Lee's shoe and badly twisting his right ankle. But Harden, who has also been dealing with a sore left knee, returned to once again to lead the Houston Rockets and fill up the stat sheet: 27 points, 11-of-11 from the line, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and a couple of 3-pointers.
Meanwhile, Batum, who's been dealing with a sore right wrist for a while, had as many turnovers as points (five) in a Portland Trail Blazers loss to the Miami Heat. Though Batum was coming off of two impressive showings -- 24 and 19 points, respectively, against the Rockets and Orlando Magic on Friday and Sunday -- he's topped 12 points in just three of his past 13 games.
Both the Rockets and Blazers are in action again Wednesday. Both Harden and Batum are expected to play.
• The All-Star break is coming at a good time for the Denver Nuggets. Danilo Gallinari (sinus infection), Andre Iguodala (neck) and Wilson Chandler (groin) all sat out against the Toronto Raptors, while JaVale McGee managed only 5 minutes on his sore left leg. But at least this burst of chaos gives us a moment to pause and imagine a world where some NBA coach would just let Anthony Randolph play. The nomadic hustle-cat freak, who hadn't logged more than 16 minutes in a game this season, put up 16 points, 7 boards, 3 steals and 2 blocks in 27 minutes on Tuesday.
• Earl Clark spent Tuesday getting an MRI exam, an X-ray and a CT scan on his injured right foot. Though the diagnosis (inflammation) came as a relief to the Los Angeles Lakers, Clark couldn't finish the game against the Phoenix Suns. Antawn Jamison (19 points, 10 rebounds) played down the stretch and 33 minutes in total.
• Speaking of that Lakers-Suns game, well, there are few words. Kobe Bryant (4 points, 9 assists, 8 turnovers) took just eight shots and made his only field goal with 2:10 to go. Afterward, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni simply said that Bryant was trying too hard to get others involved. At least Dwight Howard (19 points, 18 rebounds, 2 blocks) finished with 15 shots, his most attempts in a game since Jan. 15.
• Do fantasy owners underrate LeBron James? Really, I wonder if we just underrate one aspect of his game: LeBron's remarkable accuracy. After going 11-of-15 against the Blazers, James is an astonishing 56.5 percent from the field this season. As you may have heard or read elsewhere, on Tuesday James became the first NBA player to score 30 points in six straight games while shooting at least 60 percent in each of them. I just did a quick check, so I may have missed someone, but the last player I could find who shot at least 55 percent for a season on at least 18 attempts per game was Shaquille O'Neal in 2002-03. Anyway, over his past six games LeBron is shooting 71.7 percent (66-of-92). Unreal.
• Danny Granger could make his season debut on Wednesday when the Indiana Pacers host the Charlotte Bobcats. While the opposition could not be more tempting, fantasy owners should activate Granger only as a last resort. He is not expected to start nor play many minutes.
• On Tuesday, Larry Sanders was in Chicago getting a second opinion on his ailing back. Though he hasn't been ruled out, it seems unlikely he'll suit up for the Milwaukee Bucks when they host the Philadelphia 76ers.
• San Antonio Spurs stars Tony Parker (knee), Tim Duncan (knee) and Manu Ginobili (hamstring) all appear questionable or doubtful for their game with the Cleveland Cavaliers. For that matter, the availability of Tiago Splitter (ankle), who took an awkward fall in Monday's win over the Chicago Bulls, is also in question.