We’ve all become accustomed to James Harden putting up Most Valuable Player performances this season as he’s led his Houston Rockets to a 46-23 record. Yet, it appeared over the course of the past ten days he was beginning to looked fatigued. I’ve specifically highlighted how his fourth quarter numbers have been dropping in my recent pregame match-ups with his three-point shooting waning as well.
However, the other thing we’ve become accustomed to is Harden’s ability to out maneuver his opponent whether it be in his patented step back three point shot or via his basketball I.Q. I suggested he appeared to be offsetting this fatigue via earlier and more frequent ball distribution in an effort to ease the burden on his appropriately athletically taped shoulders.
But then Thursday night happened and we the fans and observers became aware James Harden isn’t just outsmarting his opponents he’s got our number too!
Harden’s Career Points Thursday Performance:
Perhaps he was buoyed by the pomp and circumstance of some of members from the back-to-back Houston Rockets’ Championship teams of 1993-94 and 1994-95 in attendance. Or maybe he was lifted by the energy in the Toyota Center. Better yet, maybe he was proving a point to the myriad of national media pundits who’ve been dropping him in their MVP ranking.
Odds are the truth is likely closer to Harden just wanting to help his team notch another win, but like the performance he had in the match-up versus LeBron James we can definitely ascertain Harden shows up for the big games!
If you missed Harden’s career night Lee Golden provides a great wrap up in his post game Rocket Science analysis. Plus don’t fret if you didn’t get to see the commemorative half time event Trey Oursler’s article provides an awesome review with full video and highlights.
By nights end his stat line read: 50 points (a career high), 10 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal. He shot 12 of 27 from the field and had 4 three-pointers. The number 22 was also prevalent as he led the Rockets with a plus +22 in the box score and also netted 22 free throws (out of 25 attempts). To put his free throws in perspective his 22 free throw makes was 3 more than the entire Nuggets team made.
This area of his game has seen steady improvement and while he’s always got to the line the fact he’s already surpassed last seasons’ totals speaks to how aggressively he is playing. Last year his totals were: 665 attempts and 576 makes, this season he has 676 attempts and 585 makes!
Welcome to Harden’s Fantasy Island:
Harden’s handle has received a ton of attention this year with the spot light on him for MVP, specifically his patented cross over that often sets up a step back three point shot. Steve Smith of NBA TV often features him on his weekly Smitty’s Top 5 under the rim referring to him as “The Barber“.
Several top defenders have fallen to the Beard crossing them over (as per Smitty’s Barbershop chart above) but a couple of his victims stand out: Jimmy Butler who is arguably the East’s version of Kawhi Leonard got hit not once but twice in the same game. And perhaps the best example was Ricky Rubio who might have wanted to crawl off the floor after Harden completely annihilated him.
You just said it man, I feel like when i got somebody on an island I’m gonna cook them up and put them in a blender. I’m going to keep them on their toes
Which brings me to a point I’ve been dying to make for a while. Listening to NBA commentators and various team announcers it was getting annoying hearing the ridiculous things they would say to describe the gesture Harden makes when he puts his opponent on an island. Fans in Clutch City already knew what it meant because we’ve heard it described much earlier this season.
Now the fans of the NBA who follow Game Time know as well:
Dennis Scott (aka 3D): “Can you explain to the people when you’re stirring it up and you got the hand going around in a motion, is that the James harden Bearded Island?” “Or what is it? Tell the people what it really is because I’m tired of people guessing what it is.” (you and me both Dennis)
Harden: “You just said it man, I feel like when i got somebody on an island I’m gonna cook them up and put them in a blender. I’m going to keep them on their toes.” – Harden
Moving forward we can all rest assured every time James Harden puts a player on skates or leaves them on the floor everyone will know he just took them to Harden’s Fantasy Island!
Note: click the box below and check out a great article from our very own Mitchell Kay on James Harden’s rise to becoming one of the Associations’ best leaders and the specific event that made him realize he is a natural born leader.
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