After a historic performance against the Warriors, James Harden has quickly established himself as the front-runner for MVP.
LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard. All of those names were seemingly at the forefront of the early season MVP discussion, but not anymore. James Harden of the Houston Rockets is playing the best basketball of his career and is clearly the leading candidate for MVP.
The Beard averaged 36.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists in the month of December. He led the Rockets from the depths of the Western Conference standings to sole ownership of the fourth seed in less than a month.
Harden has led the Rockets on a six game winning streak, while Chris Paul has watched from the sidelines with a hamstring injury. Eric Gordon has missed the last two games against Memphis and Golden State, forcing Harden to carry even more of the offensive load.
The reigning MVP responded with two consecutive 40+ point triple doubles. Harden finished with 44 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists against the Warriors, while shooting 10-for-23 from beyond the 3-point line. He led the Rockets, missing both Paul and Gordon, into Warriors territory and came out victorious. It was a herculean effort to say the least and arguably the most impressive regular season win of James Harden’s 10-year career.
The refs didn’t help the Rockets either, as they somehow missed the fact that Kevin Durant saved the ball with both of his feet out-of-bounds. The missed call led to a pull up jumper from Stephen Curry, putting The Dubs ahead 134-132.
With the game already in overtime, the Rockets didn’t want to tie the game again, so they went for the win. With 5.5 seconds left, Gerald Green threw the ball in to James Harden, who proceeded to nail a 26-footer over the outstretched arms of Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, putting Houston up by a point. Durant’s last second heave from just inside of half court clinked off the side of the rim. Rockets win.
What Harden has done this season, and especially in the last month, has been nothing short of amazing. He has scored at least 40 points in five consecutive games, joining Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson as the only players in NBA history to ever do so. According to Synergy Sports, Harden scored, assisted or created (think hockey assists) 80 of Houston’s 135 points in their win against the Warriors. With CP3 and Gordon ailing, The Beard is the Rockets’ offense.
Harden’s numbers, along with his responsibility and thus value to the team, cannot be denied. James Harden is the leading candidate for MVP so far in the 2018-19 season.