He’s on fire: James Harden’s streak by the numbers

Even in a losing effort, James Harden is still making history. Harden finished with 58 points in the Houston Rockets‘ overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night, 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 in 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’s scored this season, and two shy of his own 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 over his past two games. That’s tied for the third-most over a two-game span over the past 30 years. Both Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan had 118-point runs, with Bryant’s including his 81-point game in 2006.

Over his past 20 games Harden is averaging 41.2 PPG. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only four other NBA players have ever averaged at least 40 points over 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 also 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. He now stands alone in sixth on the NBA’s all-time list behind Barry, Baylor, Bryant, Jordan, and Chamberlain. Harden is the fourth player in NBA history with multiple streaks of back-to-back 50-point games in his career along with Chamberlain, Baylor and Bryant.

Not to be lost in all the 50-point milestones is the fact that Harden has now 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 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. The 21 made free throws tied the high mark for the NBA this season. Harden himself had a 21-free throw game on New Year’s Eve against the Grizzlies. Harden’s 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 entire opposing team. According to Elias, that’s one shy of Bryant’s NBA record.

At first, it didn’t look like Wednesday would be an historic night for Harden. He scored just 14 points in the third 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 he’s scored at least 20 in a quarter. Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry are next on the list with three 20-point quarters each this season.

The 19 3-point attempts by Harden helped the Rockets set an NBA record with 66 3-point attempts, breaking the old single-game mark of 61 set by… the Rockets, back in 2016 (Harden had just 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 would make Harden just the sixth player in NBA history to average at least 35 PPG in a single season, along with Bryant, Jordan, Barry, Baylor and Chamberlain, who did it in five separate 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 6 points in the final 30 seconds of regulation. Coming into Wednesday, Houston had been 682-0 over the past 20 seasons in that situation.

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