James Harden is unstoppable this season, and it seems that his last year’s performances will be forgotten pretty soon. The Beard was unreal against the Atlanta Hawks, playing one of the best games in the entire NBA history. The Rockets won this event, with 158-111, breaking the limits of the efficiency as they have two 150+ point games in this campaign.
Three Quarters Enough for a Record
Harden scored 60 points in 31 minutes against Atlanta. He sat out the entire final quarter on the bench. Although he needed just two points for setting his new career-high, coach Mike D’Antoni decided to pull him off the floor and to delay that moment for some other game. Whether D’Antoni did that to motivate his best player or to show him that he is the boss in the team, the Bears held no grudges over that.
“I was so close,” he said, laughing.
And how could he, when he already wrote history. Harden reached 60 points with the fewest number of shots ever. He was 16 for 24 from the field, hitting 8 threes in 14 attempts. Besides Klay Thompson and Kobe Bryant, he is the only player who managed to drop 60 in three periods.
Right now, he is the only active player who has multiple games with 60 or more points, and on the all-time list, Harden trails just Wilt Chamberlain with 32 and Kobe Bryant with 6 such contests.
However, what cast a shadow on his amazing achievement were the free throws. Harden had 20 points from the foul stripe in 23 attempts. During the third quarter alone, he had three trips to the line after being fouled while trying to score from downtown. It is something which many of his critics pull out as the main reason for his high productivity.
Harden has 14.4 attempts from the line every night, and being one of the best FT shooters in the league earns 12.5 points through them. It is almost one-third of his total points.
Now, what his doubters claim is that he wouldn’t score as many points if the foul criteria is the same for him as well as for the other players. Many of the defenders have a tough time stopping the former MVP, and they often have to play softer defense, because they know that he will draw the foul easier than other rivals.
In 16 games he played this season, he had 7 games with 15+ free throws, and two with 20 or more. But what is really the most interesting fact is that he didn’t have a single game with fewer than 10 shots from the foul line.
The Rockets are 13-6 at the moment and are 4th in the West half a game ahead of the Mavericks, and at the same distance behind the Clippers. Harden and the boys will now have two tough contests, one against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on Tuesday and versus the champions, Toronto Raptors in Canada two nights later.
Those games will present a perfect chance for the Beard to silence all the haters and critics, and back up his performance against the Hawks.