Through the Lens: James Harden Deals Double-Doubles

Brooklyn point guard is second in the league in assists per game

The Nets were in Oklahoma City, a return game for James Harden, in mid-November. Harden began his career with the Thunder, winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award in his final season with the team before moving on to Houston and earning a string of All-NBA and All-Star Game honors while becoming one of only seven players in NBA history to have led the league in both assists and scoring. “He’s definitely become something in the last 10 years or however long that’s been that’s totally different and historic,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. Harden is second in the NBA with 9.6 assists per game while averaging 20.8 points and 7.9 rebounds.

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Harden showed his versatility in back-to-back games early in the season. He went for 29 points with eight assists, eight rebounds and two blocks against Indiana, making 16-of-19 free throws. He’s currently fifth in the league in both free throws made (6.5) and attempted (7.4) per game. Against Detroit on Halloween, he had his first triple-double of the season, with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting — including 4-of-7 from 3-point range, plus 10 rebounds and 12 assists. “You just got to be ready,” said DeAndre’ Bembry. “He's obviously going to find open guys, he's being aggressive, but you know if you're playing with him, he's very unselfish as well. Playing off him it makes the job a lot easier on us.

Harden followed up a triple-double in Detroit with 28 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists in Toronto on Nov. 7, Brooklyn’s fifth straight win. “When he is at that level, he makes us go,” said Blake Griffin. “We as a team can go to a different level. Especially down the stretch when the game is tight, he’s got the ball in his hands, he’s making the right decisions, it’s a game-changer for us.”

Another triple-double for Harden, his second in four games, in a win at Orlando on Nov. 10. He finished with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds. “Having somebody like James who commands so much attention once he gets into the lane is good for our shooters,” said Kevin Durant. “He gets them wide open. Tonight, he penetrated and got wherever he wanted and was able to kind of put everybody in place.”

Harden put up a season-high 39 points on 11-of-18 shooting, including 6-of-10 from 3-point range, in New Orleans on Nov. 12. A week later, he had 36 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists against the Magic. Harden made 19-of-20 free throws in the game, the most free throws made in an NBA game this season. Among players with at least 100 free throw attempts this season, Harden is eighth with an 88.5 free throw percentage.

With the Knicks crossing the river to Barclays Center, Harden did it all with 34 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, and three steals, shooting 11-for-20. Rookie Cam Thomas, who had just moved into Brooklyn’s rotation a week earlier, described the experience of playing with Harden: “He just reads the game. He came out and had like 18 points in the first quarter. He was just reading the game and that's what the game needed. He needed to score at the beginning and then he got his teammates involved in the second half, rebounded well and was still aggressive. He really helped us a lot.”

Harden put up his 10th double-double in the last 11 games when he went for 20 points and 11 assists in Atlanta on Dec. 10. It was his 17th double-double in 26 games this season. “I want to win, man,” said Harden. “I don’t care about nothing else but winning. I don’t care about nothing else. That’s all. Try to be in attack mode, try to find open players and just play the game the right way, but whatever it takes to win.”

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