Every now and then, James Harden gives basketball fans a reminder that he’s perhaps the most efficient scorer in NBA history. That opportunity presented itself once more on Saturday night when the Houston Rockets hosted one of the worst defensive teams in the league, the Atlanta Hawks, which entered the game on the second night of a back-to-back.
Harden didn’t go off against Atlanta’s defense as much as he spent three quarters doing damn near whatever he wanted and coming two points away from setting a career-high in scoring. The Rockets came out on top, 158-111, with Harden dropping an unfathomable 60 points in a mere 31 minutes. Harden was ruthlessly efficient against Atlanta, going 16-for-24 from the field while connecting on eight of his 14 attempts from deep. He also lived at the charity stripe, going 20-for-23 on free throws. And to top it all off, he chipped in eight assists.
It’s not always pretty when Harden takes the floor, as he hoists up threes, attacks the rim, and actively looks to get to the free throw line. But man, when everything is working like it was on Saturday, it can be a joy to watch. He went for 31 points in the first half before dropping 29 points in the third quarter. Once that frame ended and the game was comfortably in hand, Mike D’Antoni decided to rest Harden for the rest of the evening.
🚀 4th career 60-point game
🚀 16-24 FGM
🚀 8 3PM
— NBA (@NBA) December 1, 2019
This performance was one point shy of tying Harden’s career-high, and when he learned that right after he got shut down for the rest of the game, he had a hilarious reaction on the bench.
When you find out you’re 2pts away from your career high…😂 pic.twitter.com/Ooq3FxHlEf
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) December 1, 2019
Still, it was an absolutely stunning night for Harden, who cemented once again his status as an all-time great scorer. In fact, this marks the fourth time he’s reached the 60 point mark in his career, which ties him for the third-most in league history with some guy named Mike.
Most 60-point games in @NBAHistory:
Wilt Chamberlain (32)
Kobe Bryant (6)
Michael Jordan (4)
James Harden (4) pic.twitter.com/FtLP47HeIn
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) December 1, 2019
While this is absolutely a tough pill to swallow for the Hawks, which are now tied with the Golden State Warriors for the worst record in the NBA, there is nothing quite like when Harden is really cooking. The league is full of guys who are capable of scoring in bunches — Atlanta has one such dude in Trae Young, who had 37 points on 10-for-16 shooting in the loss — but even though it’s not always pretty, Harden really is in a league of his own.