Harden records first 60-point triple-double in NBA history with clutch And-1

February 1, 2018 4:08 PM
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With Chris Paul out of the lineup nursing a groin injury, the Rockets knew they’d have to rely on James Harden more than usual. He already contributes nearly 32 points and nine assists per game, but very few could have ever predicted the kind of production he would put out on Tuesday night.

Harden gave another definition to putting the team on your back as he became the first player in NBA history to record a 60 point triple-double. His 60 points were enough to outscore the entire Magic starting five and the most by an NBA player this season. His unreal performance was as incredible as it was necessary as the Rockets narrowly edged out Orlando 114-107

The Beard scored 18 points in the fourth quarter and broke the former franchise single-game record of 57 points held by Calvin Murphy. The 18 points were a thing of beauty, but no points were more important than Harden’s And-1 triple that gave him the record and sealed the deal for the Rockets with under a minute to go.

His And-1 bucket came on a nasty step back 3-pointer against a wide-eyed Mario Hezonja. The shot kissed the back of the rim on its way down while Hezonja’s boneheaded foul left Harden on the floor. Before he could get to his feet, the crowd erupted in applause as he picked himself up and made his way to the charity stripe for his eventual 60th point.

While Harden is often criticized for his lackluster defense, his play on the other end of the court was disciplined and focused. He got low, kept his hands up and stuck with his assignments like white on rice. His inspired play in the absence of Paul resulted in four steals and a block.

The Rockets began the night without Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza, but their luck got worse when they lost Eric Gordon early in the second quarter to lower back stiffness. Houston was certainly down, but thanks to Harden, they were never out.

The Beard was cooking up buckets for almost literally the entire game. Aside from the one minute and 34 seconds he sat, Harden was a constant factor on the floor. The 46 minutes and 26 seconds he was on the court was a new career-high, and it’s doubtful the Rockets could’ve defeated the Magic without his unchecked court time.

Tonight marked the fourth time he’s eclipsed the 50 point game threshold this season as well as the second time he’s set a new career-high in points during this campaign. His assist and rebound numbers have declined this season as a result of a marginally smaller role, but if you look outside of the pure per game statistics, he’s actually having a better season than last year.

Most players don’t reach their peak until about the age of thirty, which means there’s room for improvement from The Beard. It’s insane to think that Harden could get much better than this, but it’s a real possibility. For the sake of basketball, let’s hope the superstar continues to grow.

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