It didn’t take long for Houston Rockets superstar James Harden to dust off some of the rust he had entering the new campaign. After starting the new season with a combined shooting of 18-of-63 overall (28.6 percent) in Houston’s first three games of the season, the former Most Valuable Player winner looked like his old self again against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.
There was some talk about Harden’s rather lackluster start, which all turned out to be premature and unnecessary, as the 30-year-old torched the Wizards en route to an astounding 59 points (on 18-of-32 shooting), six three-pointers, three rebounds, nine assists, and a steal in 38 minutes of action.
Some folks were already questioning Harden’s fit with new Rockets teammate Russell Westbrook, but as it turns out, it looks like these two are going to get along just fine. Harden just needed to get his wind under him, and one he did, he came out with one of the best performances of the young season thus far.
Such is the caliber of James Harden that he now seemed unfazed by the most daunting of situations. He has proven this in the past, with a career filled with epic clutch performances. Today, we look back at three of Harden’s most memorable clutch moments and game-winners.
3. April 21, 2016 vs. Golden State Warriors
We start things off with Harden’s unforgettable performance against the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of their first-round matchup during the 2016 Playoffs. At that point, Houston was down 2-0 in the series with the Dubs logging back-to-back wins in their home floor. Harden knew what was at stake in Game 3, and it was clear that the Rockets had to win this game in order to stay alive in the series.
What makes Harden’s game-winner even more impressive is how the Rockets actually turned the ball over in the previous possession, leading to a break away deuce for the Dubs. Houston was out of time outs, so Harden had to take matters into his own hands.
The Warriors would end up winning the series, 4-1, but this was definitely one of Harden’s most memorable plays in his entire career.
2. Jan 23, 2015 @ Phoenix Suns
At the second spot we have Harden’s game-winning step-back jumper at the top of the key against the Phoenix Suns. With the game tied and the shot clock turned off, Harden had now-teammate PJ Tucker one-on-one on an isolation play. He hit a nasty cross-over against Tucker, creating enough room for himself to pull up for an uncontested jumper. Well actually, Isaiah Thomas came to help, but his effort was too little too late.
James Harden ended this contest with 33 points (on 8-of-18 from the floor), three three pointers, six rebounds, 10 assists, three steals, and a block in 40 minutes of action.
1. Jan 3, 2018 @ Golden State Warriors
At the top of our brief list is another one of Harden’s masterpiece plays against the Warriors. It does appear that The Beard loves playing against the Warriors, despite the fact that the Dubs have proven to be Houston’s unmanageable hurdle over the past few years.
With the Warriors up two points and just 5.5 seconds remaining in the ballgame, it was pretty easy for the Warriors to read the inbound play head coach Mike D’Antoni had drawn up. The ball was obviously going to make its way to Harden’s hand, and the Dubs were able to cover him with two of their best defenders in Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Well, it didn’t matter much to Harden, as he was still able to pull of what is easily one of the most amazing game-winner of all time.
In truth, it was pretty challenging to sift through all of Harden’s astounding clutch moments in his entire 10-year career. There were just too many of them, that it felt like an injustice to leave some of them out. Nonetheless, this three plays above is a great representation of what Harden can do when the spotlights shine the brightest, and why he is considered by many as one of the most clutch players in the game today.
This season is going to be a lot different for James Harden and his Rockets, with the team entering the new season with a revamped lineup. The new dynamic due of Harden and Westbrook seems as good as advertised, and at this point, they are looking like a serious contender for the title. It’s not going to be an easy road ahead, though, but with Harden at the helm, it does appear like Houston will definitely be a force to be reckoned with this season.