Although Houston Rockets star guard James Harden had a much better offensive performance on Wednesday night than in his previous four games, can we really say he’s back to his normal self?
In the four games leading up to the Rockets’ recent victory against the Denver Nuggets, James Harden had been arguably playing the worst basketball of his Houston Rockets‘ tenure. Although Harden averaged 29 points per game, he shot 33.6 percent from the field and a God-awful 17.9 percent from downtown, which raised all sorts of possibilities about what could have been the cause of his poor play.
But Harden seemingly reversed his misfortunes against the Nuggets, as the 2018 MVP had 27 points on only 13 shots, which was good for a field goal percentage of 46 percent. Although this was much better than what we had been seeing out of The Beard during the Rockets’ four-game losing streak, his game still seemed a bit off compared to his normal level of play.
For starters, Harden only had six 3-point attempts, as compared to his season average of 13.2 triples per game. In addition, Harden had only shot 33.3 percent from deep, which is much lower than his season average of 36 percent. This begs the question of whether Harden’s struggles are a thing of the past or whether there’s more in store.
All in all, Harden’s play of late has been a bit of a drop off compared to the 2018-19 season, as Harden was in the middle of his unguardable tour at this point last year. Harden’s streak of consecutive 30-point games didn’t end until February 25th last year, and went underway on December 13th.
Hopefully Harden will be able to get back rolling heading into the playoffs because the Rockets will need his contributions most once the postseason starts. But for the sake of the Rockets, Harden must get back to his normal level of play immediately, because the Rockets have no shot at competing for a title without his MVP-level play.
Fortunately the Rockets have Russell Westbrook, who is capable of carrying the load whereas last year Harden was the end-all be-all. But even in spite of Russ, who has been flat-out amazing, the Rockets have dropped games recently due to the lack of offensive firepower behind Russ, which should almost certainly be Harden. This is most evident in how the Rockets dropped from the second seed to the sixth seed this season. Hopefully Wednesday night’s game marked the return of the Harden we saw last season and earlier this season.