5 Can't-Miss Matchups: James Harden vs. LeBron James

Michael C. Wright

Michael C. Wright NBA.com


Jan 13, 2020 10:04 AM ET

LeBron James and James Harden are set to square off this Saturday.

Here’s a look at some of our can’t-miss matchups for the week:

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1. LeBron James vs. James Harden

Last regular season meeting: Feb. 21, 2019

It has been nearly a year since James Harden and LeBron James squared off.

In a Kia MVP race that changes day by day and performance by performance, what transpires in this game is sure to swing opinions one way or the other. Interestingly, these two haven’t faced off since last February with James coming out on top when the teams met in Los Angeles. 

Outside of that, Harden has finished victorious in four of the last five head-to-head matchups. On Saturday, the 30-year-old Harden became the 45th player (and the seventh-youngest) to reach 20,000 career points (20,022). James accomplished that feat at 28 and is the youngest in NBA history to reach 20,000 career points back in 2013.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

LeBron James10927.46.86.8
James Harden91024.26.16.6


2. Marcus Smart vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Last regular season meeting: Oct. 30, 2019

Marcus Smart will get the primary task of slowing Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Smart has an eight-inch height disadvantage against Antetokounmpo, but do you think the size mismatch will keep him from trying to throw the shackles on the reigning Kia MVP? San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich phrased it perfectly last week when he called Smart “a tough son of a gun.”

One of the league’s elite defenders with plenty of swagger to match, Smart and the Celtics have captured wins in three of their last five outings against Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. The Kings double and triple-teamed Antetokounmpo on Friday to limit him to just 13 points, but you shouldn’t expect similar tactics from the Celtics with a stopper like Smart in the fold.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Marcus Smart878.24.03.7
Giannis Antetokounmpo7823.18.54.7


3. Devin Booker vs. Trae Young

Last regular season meeting: Nov. 14, 2019

Devin Booker had a solid night in the last Suns vs. Hawks matchup.

Exciting, young All-Star-caliber guards collide here, but both teams’ losing records scuff up some of the shine in this one. Young finished up last week with an off night in a loss to the Wizards as they limited him to 19 points on 7-of-20 shooting. What’s more is Young missed all seven of his 3-point attempts, which tied for the second-most attempts from range without a make in a game for the second-year star.

Booker, meanwhile, closed out the week by making a couple of clutch 3-pointers late to lead the Suns past the Magic on Friday. Young won the first two matchups between the phenoms, but Booker, despite committing seven turnovers, dropped 27 points to lead Phoenix to a win when these teams last met in November. Young missed Sunday’s loss to the Nets due to a sore hamstring.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference

Devin Booker1228.35.78.3
Trae Young2123.73.39.7


4. Kevin Love vs. Anthony Davis

Last regular season meeting: March 30, 2018

Kevin Love helped spark the Cavs to an upset win vs. the Nuggets.

LeBron James’ old sidekick meets up with the new one in Los Angeles. Going back to Dec. 12, 2014, Davis has won three of the last five meetings against Love. But all those outings came during Davis’ time with the New Orleans Pelicans. 

Davis has missed the Lakers’ last two games with a bruised tailbone, while constant trade speculation continues to swirl around Love, who has shown frustration with Cleveland’s current situation. Love remains a major contributor on the floor, though, and finished up last week with a 15-rebound performance in the Cavaliers’ win over the Denver Nuggets.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Kevin Love5418.39.62.3
Anthony Davis4520.29.81.7


5. Chris Paul vs. Kyle Lowry

Last regular season meeting: Dec. 29, 2019

The Thunder topped the Raptors in a Dec. 29 matchup.

All-Star floor generals clash in what’s largely been a lopsided affair as Paul is 16-9 in games against Lowry. Paul has come out on top in three of the last five contests against Lowry, but the series is evenly split at 5-5 over the last 10 meetings. 

Lowry piled up a season-high 15 assists in a loss Sunday to the San Antonio Spurs. Considering the Thunder are 7-13 against teams better than .500, Lowry and the Raptors might have a good shot on the road against Paul, who has torched opponents this season in clutch time.

Head-to-head stats below are via Basketball Reference.

Kyle Lowry91614.04.05.4
Chris Paul16920.24.69.5

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here , find his archive here and follow him on  Twitter .

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