On some nights, there’s just nothing you can do to stop greatness from happening. One of those nights was Sunday, and James Harden was the greatness that was unstoppable. The Jazz never stood a chance.
The Rockets beat the Jazz 117-110 on Sunday night but the score doesn’t quite capture how incredible the night was. Harden finished the game with 56 points on 25 shots and 13 assists in just 35 minutes of play.
But even that gaudy stat line doesn’t quite capture what Harden did on Sunday. Harden did most of that work with a quarter left to play. By the end of the third quarter, the superstar hybrid guard had 52 points and 13 assists on the night. He scored four more just a few minutes into the fourth just to put a cherry on top of how unstoppable he actually was that night.
He didn’t do it the way he normally does it, either. These were pure buckets. It wasn’t getting to the free throw line 20 times — he only shot 12 free throws, which might be a low for him. But he did it the hard way. He got bucket after bucket after bucket. He only missed six shots the entire night. This game was crazy. Here’s why.
He did this against the Utah Jazz
The Jazz have been one of the best defenses in the league over the last two seasons and they’ve continued that trend this year. They’ve got the third best defense in the league this season and have only allowed 98.6 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com’s stats tool.
Yet Harden picked them apart like it was absolutely nothing. They couldn’t keep a body in front of him and they couldn’t stop him from getting to the rim and either finishing or getting fouled.
Just take a look for yourself.
If you see anything the Jazz did wrong, let me know. Because all I see is everything Harden did right.
He didn’t miss a single shot in the first quarter
Harden jumped out the gate scorching the nets with 22 points in the first quarter. He shot 8 of 8 from the field, but made four three point attempts in the quarter. When Harden is going like that, there’s just not much you can do.
And it’s not like these were all easy shots. They were difficult, contested shots off the dribble. I mean, come on. What are you supposed to do with this?
And when he hits this? You might as well just hit the showers.
He accomplished something only one other player has done in the last 30 years
Scoring 50 points and dishing out double-digit assists is hard to do. At some point, defenses adjust to the way you’re scoring and get the ball out of your hands. Coming up with assists is the easy part. But continuing to score? Man, that’s just your night.
Only three players in history have more than one game of 50 points and 10 assists in the last 30 years: LeBron James and Russell Westbrook were two. Now we’re adding James Harden to that list, according to ESPN. Harden and Westbrook are the only two who have three such games.
James Harden: 3rd career game with 50 points and 10 assists, tied with Russell Westbrook for most within last 30 seasons pic.twitter.com/E4lY14bo5P— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 6, 2017
The box score thought Harden did this in 20 minutes of play
The league’s box score hasn’t been at the top of its game so far this season, but Harden was so good on Sunday he made the box score’s error look real. When Harden checked out about two minutes into the fourth quarter, both the NBA’s official box score and ESPN’s box score said Harden scored 56 points in 20 minutes while shooting 25 times.
Now, if you’re saying to yourself “that seems pretty impossible,” you’re probably right. It’s hard to get up 25 shots on a normal night, let alone in 20 minutes. But I’m not going to lie to you — I bought it for a second. And so did a lot of other people.
James Harden:— 12up (@12upSport) November 6, 2017
76% FG shooting
20 minutes played
When you find out James Harden had 56 points in 20 minutes... pic.twitter.com/6Ntq48MpQs— Randy Cruz (@randyjcruz) November 6, 2017
“James Harden has 56 points and 13 assists in 20 minutes” pic.twitter.com/3O7rzpwBNL— Chris Grenham (@chrisgrenham) November 6, 2017
but James Harden is the most video game player in the entire nba so him dropping 56 in 20 minutes actually *feels* real somehow— Tim Cato (@tim_cato) November 6, 2017
The official box score was eventually corrected to let us know Harden actually played 35 minutes, but I’m still not totally convinced the wrong box score was inaccurate.
It’s always great to see history happen. I want to say that this is a moment we won’t forget, but Harden is so good he may just find a way to top it. Either way, we’re lucky to watch him.