With every big game James Harden has, this time scoring 50 points for the first time in his career, he isn’t just moving the Houston Rockets closer to a good spot in the NBA playoffs or furthering his own MVP cause. He’s also making sure he ends up in the hall of fame one day.
Numbers don’t lie, and Harden scoring 50 points while grabbing 10 rebounds is something very few players have done in the long history of the franchise: Hakeem Olajuwon, Moses Malone and Elvin Hayes. All NBA champions (Malone and Hayes with other teams), and all three of them in the hall of fame. Harden, unlike this trio, is a guard, but if he keeps this up, we’re going to see him inducted into the pro basketball hall of fame as well.
But before we jump into the distant future, the now is more important. And right now is about relishing his 50 points performance, scoring them on 12-of-27 from the field and 22-of-25 from the line. As smarter men than me have mentioned more than once – Harden depends more than anyone else on the mindset of referees on game day because of his focus on attacking the rim and throwing his limbs, hoping for contact.
Against the slipping, tanking Nuggets, things went his way. He got help from Trevor Ariza (17 points) and three more players in double figures as the Rockets won 118-108. The Rockets shot 40% from beyond the arc (4-of-12 for Harden himself) in a game that was pretty much over after the first half. The Nuggets are waiting for this season and nightmare to end. The Rockets are having fun with almost every moment they experience.
Harden might put himself in the lead of the MVP race for now. Maybe he doesn’t care about it, although I find it hard to believe. Harden didn’t just want more money from the Oklahoma City Thunder; he wanted to be the man for the team. That usually comes with a good deal of ego and aspirations. Luckily for him, it is combined with improved basketball and maturity from him, while Kevin Durant is injured for most of this season and LeBron James isn’t gaining traction with the voters as much as he deserves to be.
Where does this put us? The Rockets have won three in a row, combined with the two straight losses for the Blazers, moves them up to third in the West, one game behind the Grizzlies, one game ahead of the Blazers. With 14 games left for them to play this season, no one is actually thinking that they might be able to somehow catch up with the Golden State Warriors, 8.5 games ahead of them.