When the Houston Rockets traded Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook, there were some worries that James Harden wouldn’t gel with his new backcourt mate. That Westbrook’s need for the ball to be in his hands would get in the way of the NBA’s leading scorer from the past two years, who also needs the ball in his hands to succeed.
Twelve games into the season, those worries are beginning to look very, very silly.
James Harden goes off, again
Continuing an early-season trend, Harden led the Rockets to a 111-102 victory on Friday by smoking the Indiana Pacers to the tune of 44 points. That total — achieved on 13-of-26 shooting and 6-of-14 3-point shooting — gives Harden a record number of 40-point games at this point in the season.
Harden didn’t just go off though. He went off to the point that he equaled the entire Pacers starting lineup in scoring. Granted, the Pacers’ crew of Domantas Sabonis, Jakarr Sampson, T.J. Warren, Malcolm Brogdon and Aaron Holiday isn’t exactly the Dream Team, but that level of dominance doesn’t happen often.
Harden has now accomplished the feat for the seventh time in his career, putting him in some rarified air.
James Harden scored 44 points tonight, the same amount as the Pacers starting 5.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 16, 2019
He has scored the same or more than the opposing starting five 7 times in his career, tied with LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan for 2nd-most since the Merger. pic.twitter.com/7VjgfkvziA
The only player with more such games than that quartet of guards: Karl Malone with nine.
Through 12 games this year, Harden is averaging 38.7 points per game, 7.9 assists per game and 5.7 rebounds per game. That level of scoring leads the entire NBA and exceeds his mark of 36.1 from last season, which was already the highest average in NBA history by players not named Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan.
As you might expect, Harden also leads the league in field goal attempts, 3-point attempts, free throw attempts and usage among players with at least three games this season. The Rockets clearly didn’t plan for any of Westbrook’s shots to come at the expense of Harden. And speaking of Westbrook ...
James Harden just passed Russell Westbrook on the all-time scoring list.— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) November 16, 2019
With Harden leading the way, the Rockets are now 9-3 and second in the Western Conference. If the team can continue that pace, and Harden can continue his own pace, it will be hard to argue he isn’t the MVP.
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