James Harden is having a historic season, and it was highlighted by a historic performance on Wednesday night.
Harden scored a career-high 61 points in the Houston Rockets’ 114-110 win over the Knicks in New York. The 61 points were a franchise record for the Rockets and tied Kobe Bryant for the record in points scored by an opponent at Madison Square Garden.
The way Harden got his final points was impressive:
James Harden gets steal and scores season high 61st point off dunk pic.twitter.com/YqeGWSpTs1
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) January 24, 2019
Harden was one point away from Carmelo Anthony’s record of 62 points in a game at MSG.
Harden went 17/38 from the field, including 5/20 on threes. He racked up the points at the line, where he was 22/25. He also added 15 rebounds and five steals.
Harden is now averaging 36.2 points per game this season and well over 43 points per game in January. His play is on another level.
D’Angelo Russell is having a breakout season for the surprising Brooklyn Nets, which has his head coach duly impressed.
Russell scored 31 points and made 7 of 14 threes in the Nets’ 123-94 win over the Sacramento Kings on Monday. After their win, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson compared Russell to James Harden for some of his three-point shooting.
Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson on D'Angelo Russell: "Those pull-up threes are something. Those are (James) Harden-esque." pic.twitter.com/ZMo7ioDbDb
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) January 22, 2019
Nobody is going to say that Russell is as good as Harden, but some of his shots seem right out of Harden’s playbook.
Russell is up to 19 points, 6.4 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Most impressively, he’s shooting .437/.374/.810, which are the best marks of his career. He’s stepping up this year.
- D'Angelo Russell
The Los Angeles Lakers face off against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, making them the latest team to try to stop James Harden.
Harden is averaging a cool 42 points per game in his last 18 games, and it’s quite telling that Lakers coach Luke Walton is more focused on containing him in a certain sense than actually stopping him, setting a rather unique goal for his team.
What’s success against James Harden? “Anything under 50 we feel like we succeeded as a group,” Luke Walton says.
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) January 19, 2019
Harden has scored 57 and 58 points in his last two games. That goal sounds a lot less absurd than it is when take in that context, tongue-in-cheek or not.
Every number and goal set around Harden right now seems improbably lofty, but the guy keeps producing. We’ll see if the Lakers have any luck with their aims, and if it’s enough even if they “succeed.”
The Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday slowed down the surging Rockets, handing them their second loss in nine games. Though James Harden continued his high-scoring ways, the Bucks handled him and the rest of the Rockets well.
Though Harden scored 42 points, he was just 13/30 from the field. The Rockets only shot 37.6 percent from the field while missing 30 3-pointers.
Malcolm Brodgon, who clamped down on Harden while defending the Rockets star, said they made Harden miss and put things on the rest of the team.
Malcolm Brogdon on MIL's defense on Harden: "I thought it was tough for him. I thought he missed a lot of shots. He’s going to end up with his 30, purely off of his attempts, how much he shoots. But we made him miss a lot, and we made the other guys beat us, which they couldn’t." https://t.co/fAKt3EZUdq
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) January 10, 2019
The plan worked. Milwaukee won 116-109 to improve to 29-11 on the season. They even left Harden with a mark on his face:
Giannis with a rocket at Harden's head pic.twitter.com/aLVsgeOWX7
— ESPN (@espn) January 10, 2019
James Harden has been on an absolute tear lately, and it’s one his GM thinks he can keep up.
Harden entered Saturday averaging a career-best 33.6 points per game. He had a 50-point game and 47-point effort last month, and he’s scored over 40 points per game in five straight contests.
Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey doesn’t see why Harden couldn’t keep up the pace.
"Obviously he can't keep scoring 40 a game, but …" I said Thursday night, prefacing a question about James Harden.
"Why not?" Daryl Morey interrupted, kinda chuckling but not kidding. "I mean, honestly. History would say probably not, but he’s a very unique offensive player."
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) January 5, 2019
Harden still has a lot of work to get to Wilt Chamberlain territory, but Michael Jordan’s 37.09 points per game in 1986-87 seems like a mark that might be attainable.
The hot streak has all coincided with winning. Houston has won six in a row and 11 of their last 12, including a great win over Golden State. Even without Chris Paul, they’re looking like one of the top teams in the league again.
James Harden was unreal on Thursday night against the Golden State Warriors.
Harden scored 44 points — 11 in overtime — to lead the Houston Rockets to a 135-134 road win over the Dubs. He was only 13/32 from the field but was 10/23 on threes, making a 3-pointer to tie the game and send it to OT, and another to win the game in overtime.
Harden ties it up pic.twitter.com/Pqv99TGzUK
— arcusD (@_MarcusD3_) January 4, 2019
What a shot by James Harden!! pic.twitter.com/OGEyvFMNNY
— (@_MarcusD3_) January 4, 2019
That final three to win the game in overtime was wild because he was well-defended by two players and still made it. Harden had a triple-double in the game, adding 10 rebounds and 15 assists.
Houston has now won six in a row and is 22-15 on the season. They are climbing the Western Conference standings and getting closer to their spot as one of the top teams in the conference.
James Harden is hitting critics of his play style with the “sorry, not sorry.”
Speaking Wednesday with NBA on TNT reporter Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, the Houston Rockets star responded to those upset about how often he gets to the free throw line. Harden’s retort was simply to tell opponents to stop fouling.
I just asked James Harden what he says to people who are mad that he gets to the freethrow line so much. He said, dead serious, “Stop fouling. It’s simple”. #Rockets
— Rosalyn Gold-Onwude (@ROSGO21) January 2, 2019
The six-time All-Star Harden looks like a strong candidate to win his second straight MVP this season. He is averaging a career-best 33.3 points per game (tops in the NBA) to go along with 5.8 rebounds and 8.4 assists. But Harden, who is also at a career-high 11.1 free throw attempts per game in 2018-19, is regularly attacked for his seemingly relentless foul-baiting, which detractors say is a cheap strategy that negatively affects his watchability as a superstar.
True, Harden may have a point in saying that opponents should do a better job of defending without fouling. But plays like this illustrate how impossible it can be to avoid because he has gotten so good at hunting for the whistle.