With the day-in, day-out drama of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the expected brilliance of the Golden State Warriors, many fans have looked past the season the Houston Rockets are having.
They have the second-best record in the NBA and have even knocked off the Warriors twice this season.
The Rockets have done this without Chris Paul for about 40 percent of their games as the star point guard has missed 18 games this season.
Last night’s victory over Orlando might not stand out because it’s Orlando, but James Harden turned in a historic performance in the 114-107 win.
Harden poured in a career-high 60 points to go along with 11 assists, 10 rebounds and four steals. It marked the first time in NBA history a player recorded a 60-point triple-double:
— NBA (@NBA) January 31, 2018
The list of milestones and records broken don’t stop there as Harden also broke Calvin Murphy’s franchise record for points in a game. Murphy held the previous record with 57 points, a mark that had stood since 1978.
This wasn’t an empty triple-double against a team that put up no fight as the Rockets needed Harden to the very end of the game to pull out the win. It was a two-point game with under one minute remaining when Harden hit a step-back 3-pointer, got fouled on the play and completed the four-point play.
James Harden dropped his 60th point on a step-back 4-point play 😱🔥 pic.twitter.com/ep3VblqKxS
— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) January 31, 2018
Harden had 56 points before that play so he needed all four to get to 60. That essentially sealed the game for the Rockets, but Harden was still stuck on nine rebounds.
The next time down the court, Mario Hezonja, the same player who fouled Harden on the four-point play, missed a shot and Harden grabbed his 10th rebound to complete the triple-double with 38 seconds remaining.
Harden’s 11 assists also produced 26 points, so he accounted for 86 of the Rockets’ 114 points. According to Elias Sports, that’s the second-highest total of any player this season. The highest mark was also by Harden as he produced 91 points in a November game vs. Utah.
The only other player in the last 20 seasons to account for 85 or more points produced in a game is Kobe Bryant when he scored 81 points (with five points off assists) in 2006.
Afterward, Harden was asked what it was like to become the first player with a 60-point triple-double.
“It’s a good feeling, I guess,” he said. “I try to go out there to make an impact every single night on the game however I can. Whether it’s scoring, rebounds, assists, steals whatever it is and tonight I was just able to do everything.”
What makes this even more amazing is that the Magic knew Harden was going to have the ball and they still couldn’t stop him. Paul and Trevor Ariza didn’t even play. Eric Gordon played 10 minutes before leaving with an injury. The Rockets had just six players who played more than 13 minutes and were led by Harden’s 46.
With the way Harden has (almost) single-handedly led Houston to the second-best record in the NBA, you would think he’s the front-runner for the MVP award after finishing as the runner-up in two out of the last three seasons.
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