James Harden sets some kind of new scoring mark nearly every night it seems, but he’s in line to be even more of a one-man show for the Rockets.
A night after going 1-for-17 from 3-point range, James Harden put up 57 points (a franchise-record 36 in the first half) Monday night as the Houston Rockets beat the Memphis Grizzlies 112-94. He has scored at least 30 points in 17 straight games now, surpassing Kobe Bryant for the second-most consecutive 30-plus point games in NBA history. The Rockets are 13-4 during Harden’s run.
Chris Paul (left hamstring) and Eric Gordon (right knee) are already sidelined, and now the Rockets will be without center Clint Capela (thumb) for 4-6 weeks. Paul has been out since before Christmas, with a tentatively projected return before this month is over. Gordon has missed the last eight games, but Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni has suggested a possible return this week.
Harden leads the league in scoring (34.8 points per game), minutes (37.1 per game) and usage rate (39.9 percent). But there is some bad that comes with that, with turnovers in bunches (5.6 per game) and unchecked shot volume (30 or more field goal attempts in five of the last seven games). Sunday night, in a loss to the Orlando Magic, Harden scored 38 points despite going the aforementioned 1-for-17 from beyond the arc.
After Monday night’s game, Harden discussed his shooting woes from the previous night and dismissed the impact on his confidence.
"I went 1-of-17? Shoot, that’s a lot of 3s missed. Wow,” Harden said with a smile before getting serious again. “If I make six of them, it’s on. It’s a 60-point game. So, Orlando got lucky last night."
Harden’s math is a little off, as six more made 3s against Orlando would have left him at 56 points, but the point was clear. Back-to-back games with 50-plus points were within reach if he had held off the front end of it, which would be something in itself, and he’d be on a streak of four straight games with more than 40 points heading into Wednesday night against the Brooklyn Nets.
There’s the obvious question of how sustainable Harden’s current level of play is, and his workload will invite injury down the road. But for now, and as long as the Rockets are down multiple starters, Harden will have to carry the team as a one-man show.