When the Atlanta Hawks traveled to Houston to face the Rockets on Saturday night, it was a chance for Hawks guard Trae Young to prove his position in the league and battle with arguably the best scorer in the league, James Harden.
Harden is averaging over 38 points per game this season, but that isn’t enough for the former MVP. Against a dismal Hawks team, Harden scored 60 points in three quarters of action, as the Rockets won handily, 158-111. Harden added eight assists to his scoring barrage.
Earlier in the season, NBA analyst Jalen Rose predicted that Harden would have a 90-point game sometime this season. The thought might not be too fat fetched, as Harden scored the 60 points in just 31 minutes of action. The week before Kobe Bryant scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, he had a similar game against the Dallas Mavericks where he scored 60 points in three quarters. Coincidence?
This Rockets roster is currently thin, so the scoring from Harden is needed to guarantee the team a spot in the playoffs. At 13-6, the Rockets are currently the four-seed.
Harden is looking to add another MVP trophy to his collection. With averages of 38.9 points, 7.8 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game this season, he is in good company to win. The only problem is his narrative doesn’t fit with what the voters want.
Luka Doncic, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo will finish above Harden in MVP voting, even if their stats don’t exactly match his. The only way the voters couldn’t ignore his candidacy would be for him to average 40 points per game.
A player averaging 40 points per game for an entire season has only happened twice, and both were by Wilt Chamberlain. The only problem for the Rockets is the toll of scoring 40 points per game on Harden’s body. The Rockets rely so heavily on him in the regular season, that come postseason time, he simply runs out of gas in the tank. The organization and Harden need to decide if winning an MVP or competing for a championship is more important.