2. January 30, 2018
Line: 60 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals, 19-30 field goals, 17-18 free throws
If Harden’s destruction of the New York Knicks for 53-16-17 was his signature game of the winter in 2016-17, and his best performance ever came in winter of 2018-19, his requisite marquee game of 2017-18 came on Jan 30 against the Orlando Magic.
This was an Orlando team that had started the season out strong before fading back into the pack. Ultimately they would fade all the way to the bottom of the standings and receive another top-6 pick. On this night they would give the Rockets all they could handle.
As the Magic scored easily on offense, Harden basically matched them shot-for-shot. The Magic attempted to guard him with one guy on the perimeter and help inside if he drove. Yet Harden’s pacing and touch provided him shot after shot at the rim, often on his preferred left side. Then when needed he began hitting 3-pointers.
With Orlando refusing to go away Harden continued to hit big shots, again and again breaking ties with a stepback jumper or a feed to Clint Capela. He hit a circus shot from behind the line to put the Rockets up four late and hit a free-throw jumper to break a tie at 107 with two minutes to go.
Then with Houston up two Harden put the cherry on top, a stepback 3-pointer over Mario Hezonja to give the Rockets the game and to give himself the franchise scoring record with 60 points.
Harden just hit the benchmarks to make this a triple double, and it should be noted no player has ever scored that many points in a triple double. But this game was about his scoring as he hit big shot after big shot to give his team the victory. His full arsenal of offensive shots was on display for a Magic team that was helpless to stop him, and an arena filled with devoted Rockets fans.
Next: January 3, 2019