Houston Rockets: Even a ‘bad’ James Harden game is elite at this point

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

As the Houston Rockets defeated the Atlanta Hawks to sweep the season series, James Harden quietly put together a remarkably good ‘bad’ game.

Sometimes looking at the box score of a Houston Rockets game can be confounding. Oftentimes the stat-lines of James Harden and Russell Westbrook jump off the page right away (along with Clint Capela‘s rebounding numbers). Wednesday night’s win in Atlanta was no different, as The Beard put up stellar numbers once again in the absence of The Brodie.

Still, shooting numbers like those of Harden last night certainly won’t work against the elite teams in the league. James finished the night shooting 9-of-34 from the field, which included a 4-for-20 clip from the 3-point line. By all accounts from his percentages, and even from just watching the game live, he had a pretty bad game. But then, we look at the numbers he ended up with.

James Harden scored 22 points in the first quarter on the way to 41 on the night, to go along with 10 rebounds and 10 assists. It was the 15th time he’s had a 40-point triple-double in his career, which is second only to Oscar Robertson. Behind his efforts and strong games from the supporting cast, the Rockets were able to pull away from the Atlanta Hawks late in the fourth quarter, coming out on top, 122-115.

So how is it that James Harden can shoot 26.5 percent from the field yet still have such a dominant presence in the game? Well, as it turns out, Wednesday wasn’t the first time he’s had such a game:

James Harden's 26.5% FG pct today was the worst FG pct in a 40-point game in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55).

The only other time a player scored at least 40 points on less than 30% shooting was Harden on Dec. 3 of this season (50 pts, 29.7% FG pct).

(h/t @EliasSports ) pic.twitter.com/QKqDiMfb11

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 9, 2020

Yes, The Beard had a similar game not even two months ago in the controversial double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs. James Harden is reaching a point where he needs to be graded in a separate category from the rest of the league due to his dominance, which makes him one of the most exciting players to watch on a nightly basis.

Next. Rockets vs Thunder: A tale of two Westbrooks

Obviously, missing more than 70 percent of his shots from the field won’t help Houston if it becomes a habit, but the numbers he still ends up with is a testament to just how elite of a player he has become.