Only 24 hours after a Steph Curry crossover sent Chris Paul to the hardwood, James Harden raised the bar once again in the race for the 2014-2015 NBA MVP award. Harden went off against the Sacramento Kings, dropping a career-high 51 points on 8 of 9 shooting from beyond the arc.
Harden’s storm lifted the Houston Rockets past the Kings and DeMarcus Cousins’ triple-double by a score of 115-111.
“At shootaround I was struggling,” said Harden on his career night. “I had to put up some extra shots and I just didn’t leave until my shot felt where it needed to be. I just had confidence to go knock it down tonight.”
Harden joins Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving as the only two players to reach the half century mark twice this season. Harden also made Rockets history by becoming the first player to have multiple 50 point performances in a single season.
“It’s a great honor; a great individual honor,” said Harden. “Credit to my teammates. Guys try to get me the ball in great spots and finding me on back door plays and things like that. Setting great screens for me. I try to go out there and give it my all every single night and hopefully those guys can be with me.”
That’s what separates Harden from Russell Westbrook. Harden shot 64 percent from the field and 88.9 percent from beyond the arc against Sacramento. Westbrook, on the other hand, shot 31.3 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from 3-point range against the Dallas Mavericks on the same night. Both had big games, but only one was able to lead his team to victory.
Over the past seven games, Westbrook has had two games where he shot in the 40 percent range. Harden only had two games where he shot worse than 40 percent. Both players may be averaging 27.6 points per game right now, but one is fighting for the second seed and one is fighting just to make the playoffs.
No one is saying that Westbrook is a bad player, but at 51-24, the Rockets seem to have gotten a lot more value out of their superstar.