• Brian L. Barefield


“You can’t guard James Harden one on one,” says Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce. “He’s an elite talent with elite skills and it’s more about the work, make him work,” he says in his post-game press conference. The Houston Rockets defeated the Atlanta Hawks 119 – 111 at Toyota Center on Monday and although moral victories don’t go down in the win column. Atlanta put a halt to James Harden’s 30-plus point game streak at 32 games. With time winding down, Harden got the ball and dribbled across half court and did not even attempt a shot. He ended the game with 28 points.

“That streak was great, but I was just doing it because that’s what we had to do in order to keep our heads above water. Now we get our full roster back. You look at the stat line and we had multiple guys in double figures, which is great to see. Hopefully we can keep that up and like I said, catch a rhythm,” said Harden after the game when he was asked about the streak coming to an end.

The reigning NBA MVP kept his team afloat when the team was dealing with a major injury bug. Without starting point guard Chris Paul (hamstring), backup shooting guard Eric Gordon (knee) and starting center Clint Capela (thumb), the Rockets were forced to lean on Harden more for scoring to stay in contention for a playoff spot in a very competitive Western Conference.

During that 32-game span of scoring 30-plus points, Houston went 21-11 with Harden averaging 41.1 points per game, 7.6 rebounds, 7.4 assist, 5.7 3-pointers, and 2.2 steals. And to say that Houston needed every aspect of those stats to move from the bottom of the Western Conference to the 5th spot currently would be an understatement. By hitting 276 3-pointers this season, which is the fourth-highest single season total in NBA history,

Harden is putting his name right back in contention for another MVP trophy. He is the current NBA leader in scoring at 36.5 points per game, which puts in the conversation with one of the greatest of all times to ever do it. Over the last 40 years, the only other player to average more (37.1) was Michael Jordan in the 1986-87 season.

It had been since last December since Harden had not hit the 30-point mark in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers who sit atop of the Rockets in the standings. What was more impressive was during the streak Harden went for at least 40 points 18 times and hit 50 on four occasions. The pinnacle of the streak was when the 2018 All-Star put up 61 points in the “Mecca” (Madison Square Garden) against the New York Knicks. It was also Harden’s career high.

“Eventually, it was going to end one of these days and it just does. He’s unbelievable. He will start another one,” head coach Mike D’Antoni said after the game about the streak.

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