The plus-57 is the best plus-minus recorded in any NBA game (regular season or playoffs) in the past two decades, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Joe Smith had the previous best plus-minus in the past two decades with a plus-52 in the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ blowout win over the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 8, 2001.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni laughed in shock during his postgame news conference when asked about Mbah a Moute’s plus-57, checking the printed box score on the table for confirmation. He pointed it out to Mbah a Moute in the locker room afterward.
“I saw it again and was like, ‘Wow,'” said Mbah a Moute, who scored 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting, including three 3-pointers, grabbed four rebounds and had four steals. “I guess it’s a testament to our team, man, and how we play. When we’re clicking, we do a lot of good things. It makes people look good, all individuals look good.”
The Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a 93-36 margin with Mbah a Moute on the floor.
Houston got off to a slow offensive start, leading 6-5 when Mbah a Moute checked in with 6:47 remaining in the first quarter. The Rockets closed the quarter with a 30-12 run and held a large lead the rest of the game.
Mbah a Moute was plus-18 in the first quarter, plus-15 in the second , plus-11 in the third and plus-13 in the fourth; the Nuggets were scoreless during the first 3:47 of the final frame before the veteran forward and the Rockets’ other regulars checked out of the game.
“That’s pretty good. I like the win,” Mbah a Moute said. “We played really well. Defensively, we were flying all over the place. Our rotations were awesome, guys communicating on the same page. When we play like that early, it took their spirit and really helped us.”
Mbah a Moute, a defensive stopper who signed with the Rockets on a one-year deal for the veterans minimum of $2.2 million after spending the previous two seasons with the LA Clippers, has quickly proven his value in Houston. The Rockets allow an average of only 97.8 points per 100 possessions with Mbah a Moute on the floor, the best of any Houston player averaging at least 20 minutes per game.
“You’ve got to understand, I’m not surprised when I hear any of that stuff,” Paul said. “Coach always comes tell me, especially early in the season, he’d be like, ‘Man, Luc is good!’ I’d be like, ‘I know.’ You know what I mean? I played with him and there’s a trust factor there. I trust Luc as much as I trust myself.”
Paul, who missed almost a month due to a bruised left knee, was spectacularly efficient in his first regular-season home game at Toyota Center. He scored 26 points on 8-of-11 shooting, dished out 12 assists, recorded three steals and committed only one turnover in 28 minutes.
It was the continuation of a very smooth process of incorporating Paul after Houston’s hot start without him. The Rockets are 3-0 since the return of Paul, who has averaged 17.0 points on 58.6 percent shooting from the floor, 9.3 assists and 2.3 steals in the three blowout wins.
“We’ve still got a ways to go, but I’m enjoying the process of it,” Paul said. “Yeah, we’re winning, but through the game, we’re talking, we’re having conversations. It’s about building things for later, building that trust, knowing that you can get on guys and nobody takes it personal. Everybody looks at it big-picture. When I say it’s a process, I mean us building all season long is a process.”
Paul is amused by the critics who doubted he’d be able to coexist with James Harden, another superstar guard who has dominated the ball throughout his career. Harden leads the league in scoring and assists, but Paul still has plenty of opportunities to run the pick-and-roll for the Rockets, who have the West’s best record at 14-4.
“At the end of the day, it ain’t like I went from the NBA to the NFL,” Paul said. “It is what it is. I’ve been playing for a while, and I’m playing the same position. I think with everybody seeing me leave [the Clippers] and stuff like that, I don’t know what they think, but I know how to play a little bit.”