The Rockets Can't Afford for James Harden to Cool Off

Some fans may not love James Harden's game but it's become essential to the Houston Rockets as they continue to compete for a favorable spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
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Are we finished complaining about how James Harden shoots too many free throws?

Because if we are, then it doesn’t matter that he got 18 attempts from the stripe Thursday against the Heat. Instead, we can just focus on how he put up 58 points—on the second night of a back-to-back—to help the Rockets complete a 21-point comeback in a 121-118 win.

The reigning MVP posted 17 points in both the third and fourth quarters as he helped Houston capture its fourth straight win. He knocked down eight threes on the night and also provided 10 assists. It was his first game with at least 10 dimes in more than a month.

If one of his last-minute three-point attempts had fallen, he would have had the second ever 60-10 game in league history. He recorded the first such game last season.

It’s getting silly at this point. The 30-point scoring streak might be over, but he hasn’t slowed down one bit.

He can’t.

Even with Chris Paul back in the fold, Harden has continued to rack up gaudy numbers that are even more impressive than what you could put up in 2K.

The Point God is going to be the key to this team succeeding in the playoffs, but for the rest of the regular season, it’s Harden’s show. Paul took just 12 shots and had only four assists Thursday while Harden launched 32 attempts, with 18 of those coming from distance.

Even with another Hall of Famer in the backcourt, the offense still runs through James. And somehow, he continues to carry the squad on that side of the ball with relative ease.

Outside of sending four defenders, like the Hawks did on the final play Monday, or refusing to foul him with the clock winding down like the Heat did after their game-tying three-point attempt fell short, there’s no other way to stop him from putting the ball in the bucket.

His step-back three is practically a layup. Which makes it even easier for him to get actual layups as defenders are so on edge the second Harden’s right foot moves in the opposite direction of the basket.

It can be frustrating at times to see him living at the line, but it’s not his fault defenders keep fouling him. And if you think his free throws are more indicative of his ability to manipulate referees than keep defenders off balance, at least give him some respect for keeping the officials on their whistles in a way nobody else can imagine.

Harden’s game isn’t for everyone. And this isn’t a plea to make you start appreciating what he does on a nightly basis to make Houston one of the best teams in the league.

But if you can’t find joy in watching Harden put together the best scoring season since Michael Jordan in 1986-87, just stay quiet so the rest of us can.