Even in a losing effort, James Harden is making history. He finished with 58 points in the Houston Rockets‘ overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, two days after dropping 57 on the Memphis Grizzlies. Until Spencer Dinwiddie (33 points) and Jarrett Allen (20 points, 24 rebounds) led impressive comebacks in the fourth quarter and overtime, it looked like the biggest story of the night would be the reigning MVP making his case for a repeat by lifting a short-handed Rockets squad to another win. As it was, Harden still put up eye-popping numbers that have to be seen to be believed.
Harden’s 58 points were the most he has scored this season and two shy of his Rockets franchise record. Only Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (60 points vs. 76ers in November) has scored more in a game this season. Combined with the 57 he scored on Monday, Harden has scored 115 points in his past two games. That’s tied for third-most in a two-game span in the past 30 years. Both Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan had 118-point runs, with Bryant’s including his 81-point game in 2006.
Incredibly, in those two games, Harden has made a combined 33 field goals, none of which has been assisted. Harden is the only player in the past 20 seasons to have multiple games of 16-plus field goals, all of which were unassisted, let alone the only one to do it in consecutive games. Harden’s last basket that came off an assist came during the fourth quarter of Houston’s loss to Orlando on Sunday (for the record, Clint Capela got the assist).
In his past 20 games, Harden is averaging 41.2 PPG. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only four other NBA players have averaged at least 40 points in a 20-game span: Rick Barry (22), Bryant (23), Elgin Baylor (33) and Wilt Chamberlain, who kept his scoring average over 40 points for an unbelievable 515-game run. Harden joined Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to record back-to-back 55-point games.
Harden now has 13 50-point games in his career, passing LeBron James for the most among active players. Harden stands alone in sixth on the NBA’s all-time list behind Barry, Baylor, Bryant, Jordan and Chamberlain. He is the fourth player in NBA history with multiple streaks of 50-point games in his career, along with Chamberlain, Baylor and Bryant.
Not to be lost among the 50-point milestones is the fact that Harden has scored at least 30 points in 18 consecutive games. That extends his record for the longest such streak since the merger and is the longest overall since Chamberlain had a 20-game streak in 1964. Harden has combined to score and assist on at least 50 points in each of those games, the longest such streak in NBA history, according to Elias.
Harden got his points Wednesday night in typical Harden fashion: going 5-for-19 from 3-point range and 21-for-23 from the free throw line. His 21 made free throws tied the high mark for the NBA this season, as Harden himself had a 21-free-throw game on New Year’s Eve against the Grizzlies. His 23 free throw attempts were more than the Nets (22) had as a team. Harden now has 50 games in his career with more free throw attempts than the opposing team. According to Elias, that’s one shy of Bryant’s NBA record.
At first, it didn’t look like Wednesday would be a historic night for Harden. He scored just 14 points in the first half, then went off for 22 third-quarter points. That was his highest-scoring quarter of the season and the NBA-leading fifth time this season that he has scored at least 20 in a quarter. Stephen Curry kept pace with Harden by notching his fourth 20-point quarters later Wednesday night.
The 19 3-point attempts by Harden helped the Rockets set an NBA record with 70 3-point attempts, breaking the single-game mark of 61 set by … the Rockets in 2016 (Harden had 12 3-point attempts in that game).
Thanks to his recent scorching run, Harden has raised his scoring average to 35.4 points per game, which not only would be a career high but also would make Harden the sixth player in NBA history to average at least 35 PPG in a season, along with Bryant, Jordan, Barry, Baylor and Chamberlain, who did so in five seasons.
Despite all the incredible numbers, there’s one stat from Wednesday night that Harden would probably like to forget: The Rockets lost, despite leading by six points in the final 30 seconds of regulation. Coming into Wednesday, Houston was 682-0 over the past 20 seasons in such situations.
The Rockets led by 6 in the final 30 seconds of regulation vs the Nets.
Houston was 682-0 entering Wednesday when leading by 6+ in the last 30 seconds of regulation over the last 20 seasons. That was the most wins without a loss by any team in that span. pic.twitter.com/SWv8FPNX8F
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 17, 2019