On a night when only four NBA games are played, there is not always a headliner performance or a player who stands out among the rest. On Saturday night, however, the last night of No-Shave November, it was only fitting that the Bearded one, James Harden, had a magical performance for the Rockets to power them to a victory.
Facing off with a Hawks team that has gone a few weeks without a win, confidence was high for the Rockets, and they knew that a hot start would get them going and keep them rolling. Trae Young’s 37 points hardly made a dent because of how Houston was scoring on each and every possession. And the fact that Young averaged 43 points in the team’s two games this weekend will not matter because the team could not get any wins. Harden, meanwhile, is going to be remembered for the night he had.
As a team, Houston poured in 158 points, including 46 in the third quarter and 81 in the opening half. Harden himself only played three quarters in this game, and yet, with the team down two starters, poured in 60 points. He shot 16-of-24 from the floor, 8-of-14 from three, 20-of-23 from the line, and finished with a net rating of +50.
That’s right. In Harden’s 30:41 on the floor, the Rockets outscored the Hawks by 50 points. He is showing us that as soon as we think we have seen it all, he continues to pull new tricks out of his thick beard.
He averaged 36 points per game last year, something that had not been done in 14 years, and even more impressive considering that guys even averaging 29 to 30 a game haven’t been seen as frequently, and sometimes the league leader would only have 27.
Compared To The Greats
It put him in direct relation to Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant, who averaged 33 and 35, respectively, during the 2005-06 campaign. He is doing this with Eric Gordon missing games, a bevy of forwards not known for their ability to make shots around him, and Russell Westbrook, who hasn’t been too effective off the ball in his career.
And Harden is posting 38 points per game this year, scoring 36 or more in seven of Houston’s last 10 games. No team has really been able to stop him, and only Bryant when he had a stretch of four consecutive 50-point games is anywhere close to matching what James is now doing.
He probably could have gone over the 70- or maybe even 80-point plateau had he not sat out the entire fourth quarter against the Hawks. There is nobody out here able to stop him as the year goes on.
Houston may have a hard time still winning games against elite teams in the playoffs with Harden playing this style, but for now, we celebrate all of the tremendous success he has found this season. Watch out for the Rockets as they look to make an ascension in the West.