Nazim Trammell-Wells | Staff Writer
The Houston Rockets’ James Harden has scored at least 30 points in each of the past 19 games, a streak the NBA has not seen since Wilt Chamberlain dominated over half a century ago.
In a four-game stretch, Harden posted 58, 57, 38, and 43 points, leaving NBA coaches puzzled.
“As a coach, what can you do?” Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson told league reporters. “I don’t know why I’m speechless, but I’m speechless at how good he is.”
Even though Brooklyn won, Harden still scored 58.
These dominating performances couldn’t come at a more convenient time for the Rockets as they are without superstar point guard Chris Paul (hamstring), 2017 Six-Man of the Year Eric Gordon (knee) and their defensive anchor, center Clint Capela (thumb). All three players are out with significant injuries.
Capella recently had surgery that will have him out four to six weeks. Paul is expected return next week and Gordon is playing restricted minutes.
“James Harden’s greatness combined with what they did last year puts more pressure on him more than ever.”
Until then, Harden will have to carry the weight of the team on his shoulders. His play has been sensational, but there is a worry that he could burn out as the season continues.
According to ESPN, Harden’s usage rate is 39.9 percent, only slightly below Russell Westbrook’s MVP year percentage 41.7. Unfortunately, players who have high usage rates tend to not perform well in the playoffs, like Harden. Still, many think it will be different for Harden this year when his teammates return.
“If the Rockets lose this year, I’m blaming Chris Paul,” ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith said on his show. “James Harden’s greatness combined with what they did last year puts more pressure on him more than ever.”
Last year, the Rockets came within one game of dethroning the reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors, but the injury bug hit Paul again and he had to miss Game 7, leaving Harden by himself.
The Warriors are back-to-back champions, have won three out of four past finals and have added center DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins.
With Harden better than ever and a healthy Paul, the Rockets can give the Warriors a run for their money.