Daily MVP Film Breakdown: James Harden’s Fourth 50-Point Triple Double

The unguardable James Harden notched his fourth-career 50-point triple-double in a win over the Lakers, breaking a tie with former teammate Russell Westbrook for the most all time.

Brodie and the Beard are the only two players with games like this since Kareem in 1975, and all seven have come in the last three years. Harden averages over 17 free throw attempts per game in these performances, and in this one he made 18. He scored 16 points in the paint and 12 from beyond the arc (4/12) and even sprinkled in a little mid-range game to get to 50.

Pick and Roll Surgeon

Harden’s numbers and highlight reels are tough to match. He’s at the forefront of the Rockets’ league-shifting ideology that three-pointers and layups are the only shots that should be attempted, and he’s just so damn good at creating those high-efficiency opportunities for himself and teammates, especially out of the high pick and roll.

Spread the floor with shooters around Harden and Clint Capela, and watch the magic happen. He’s a nimble and high-flying seven-footer who can dunk home lobs and finish with touch in traffic, and that opens up a ton of opportunities for Harden. On all three of these plays, JaVale has to respect Capela’s roll and gives up a layup to the Beard.

Harden is one of the best in the world at forcing the defense to give him something and then taking whatever that is. When the Lakers committed to stopping his drives, he found the rolling big men for easy layups.

Iso Assassin

Harden is also one of the toughest isolation covers in the league, especially out of the triple threat. Not many other players have the ability to get to the rim or step back for a 30 footer in the blink of an eye, but that’s Harden’s game.

Harden also has one of the sauciest handles in the NBA, and he loves to put defenders in a blender above the break before attacking the rim or stepping back and ripping one. The three-point threat keeps his defenders super off balance, and most of the time he doesn’t even need a mixtape move to get all the way to the rim.

If help defenders step in to stop Harden’s drive after he shakes someone on the perimeter, Harden simply dishes the rock to whomever is left open, often Clint Capela.

The Greatest Flopper of All Time

Harden is undeniably one of the most talented players in the world right now, and his legit basketball plays are a thing of beauty. However, watching an entire James Harden game can be a painful experience because he uses his considerable talents to manufacture fouls that can only be described as absolute trash. He drew nine fouls in this game, and three on three-point attempts.

It’s ugly to watch and absolutely infuriating to try to defend. You might recall that the last time these two teams played, Harden’s approach of attacking for the sole purpose of drawing fouls got Brandon Ingram so heated that he started a legitimate brawl. Kyle Kuzma got T’d up in this one protesting a foul where Harden fell to the floor for no apparent reason.

Harden flops often and shamelessly. In fact, he’s one of the only stars in league history who has made more free throws than field goals in his career. He’s often compared to Manu Ginobili in that regard, but it really isn’t even close.

Nobody has ever played the game the way Harden does, hunting fouls as a primary objective at times. It’s incredibly effective and was the difference between scoring 32 and 50 last night, but dear lord it is excruciating to watch.

Closing Time

The Rockets were only up five when Harden came back into the game with five minutes to play, but he powered a 17-7 run to put the Lakers away. Of course, it started with a cheap foul on a three-point attempt. Then, he actually earned his points with some absurdly long three-pointers.

With the game pretty much in hand, he got the six points and rebound that he needed for the 50-point triple double.

No other player in the world is as simultaneously awe-inspiring and infuriating, as beautiful on one possession and ugly on the next as James Harden. We can denounce his methods until blue in the face, and I just might, but nobody can argue with the remarkable result.

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