That’s good and bad.
Harden scored 38 points Sunday night during the Houston Rockets’ 116-109 loss against the Magic, marking the 16th consecutive time that he has scored at least 30 or more points — matching Kobe Bryant for the league’s longest such streak since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77.
But Harden also was 1-for-17 from 3-point range, tying the league’s single-game record for most misses from beyond the arc.
James Harden became the first player in NBA history to record a 40-point triple-double while playing fewer than 30 minutes, as he finished with 43 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in 29:34.
“They just didn’t go in,” Harden shrugged afterward.
Damon Stoudamire was 5-for-21 from 3-point range for the Portland Trail Blazers against the Golden State Warriors on April 15, 2005. Until Sunday, that was the only time a player had missed 16 3s in a game.
The NBA’s greatest shooters have had awful nights from 3-point range — Dennis Scott once went 2-for-17, Ray Allen once went 1-for-14 and Stephen Curry has an 0-for-11 game on his résumé. Harden even went 0-for-11 from deep in Game 5 of last year’s Western Conference finals against Golden State, and he has been 0-for-10 on three other occasions.
Houston coach Mike D’Antoni didn’t pin Sunday’s loss on Harden’s shooting. He blamed the Rockets’ defense, and Harden concurred.
“The problem is, you can’t rely on him being superhuman every night,” D’Antoni said. “We’ve got to have some contributions from other guys. I just thought they came in with a lack of focus, particularly on the defensive end.”
Bryant scored 30 or more in 16 straight games from Jan. 29 through Feb. 28, 2003. If Harden scores at least 30 in his next game — that should be on Monday at home against the Memphis Grizzlies, assuming he’s in the Rockets’ lineup — he would top that mark. The last time an NBA player had a longer streak than that was in the 1963-64 season, when Wilt Chamberlain had 20 straight games scoring 30 or more.
“He’s such a good scorer,” Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic said of Harden. “You have to stay aggressive, but you can’t foul him. He’s going to score. You’re not going to stop him. He has the ball so much, and they run everything for him.”
Even on a night when he got almost nothing from deep to fall, Harden’s scoring average rose.
Harden now is averaging 34.2 points per game this season, which puts him on a very exclusive pace. In the past 40 seasons, only Michael Jordan (37.1 points in 1986-87 and 35.0 points in 1987-88) and Bryant (35.4 points in 2005-06) have finished with a higher average than Harden has now.
Harden was 15-for-16 from the foul line on Sunday. He also finished with 12 assists and nine rebounds.
“I thought we did a pretty good job on him,” said Orlando’s Evan Fournier, who shouldered much of the defensive load against Harden. “And then I looked at the scoreboard and he had 38. He’s just unbelievable.”