James Harden Shatters Sixers Record in Loss to Thunder

James Harden, Thunder

Getty James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers dribbles the ball against Jalen Williams #8 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the third quarter at the Wells Fargo Center on January 12, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Thunder defeated the 76ers 133-114.

The Philadelphia 76ers have been an interesting team to watch this season. They have had their ups and downs through the first 41 games and sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a 25-16 record. Most recently they suffered an uninspiring loss to the youthful Oklahoma City Thunder by a score of 133-114. While the convincing loss was disappointing for the Sixers, there was some strong individual play from James Harden. In his 36 minutes on the court, Harden tallied 24 points, 15 assists, and six rebounds.

Harden Breaks Sixers Assist Record

This performance marked the sixth game this season in which Harden has tallied 15 or more assists. He previously was tied with Wilt Chamberlain (1967-68) and Maurice Cheeks (1987-88) who each had five games with 15+ assists in a season. Even more impressive is Harden has only played 26 total games this year and the Sixers are only at the mid-point in the season.

Harden also tied the Sixers record for most assists in a game in a December 23rd matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers. He tallied 21 assists in this victory as well as 20 points and 11 rebounds. This allowed him to join Chamberlain as the only other member of the organization to record a triple-double with 20+ assists and tied Cheeks for the most assists in a game at 21.

Harden Holds 4-Point Record

While he has clearly grown into more of a playmaker at this point in his career, there have still been some intriguing signs in his scoring ability. Harden has scored at least 20 points in 17 of the 26 games he has played in as well as over 30 points on two occasions. His field goal percentage has climbed from the 40.2% he shot last year with the Sixers to 43.7% so far this season and his three-point percentage has grown from 32.6% to 38.2%.

The exclamation point in his scoring ability is when the former MVP draws a four-point play. Typically triggered from his step-back, Harden has become a master of drawing the foul and knocking down the three-point shot in a way that can swing the momentum of a game.

During the first half of last night’s loss, Harden converted the 86th four-point play of his career which is the most in NBA history by a large margin. No other player has tallied more than 55 career four-point plays.

Striking the masterful balance of scorer and playmaker will be key to the Sixers’ success and Harden’s future career arc. While he is not the 50-point threat on a nightly basis as was the case in his Rockets days, his high IQ and ability to pass are necessary to this team and he is filling the role of the true point guard they desired.

The notable chemistry with Joel Embiid is also crucial. The two have developed an elite two-man game built through pick-and-roll repetitions with Harden seemingly having an extra eye for getting the 33.5 point per game scorer the ball. During the victory over the Pistons on Tuesday, 12 of Harden’s 15 assists came off Embiid’s made baskets. The ability to optimize the team’s best player makes Harden so valuable to the Sixers’ success.

He has accomplished plenty in his career already, but Harden is far from finished. The 33-year-old sits at 25th all-time in the NBA in total assists as well as 32nd in total points scored. The 10-time all-star will continue to climb these lists in search of the championship ring that has eluded him throughout his career and drove his desire to come to Philadelphia. Harden will have a major impact on the team’s ability to reach this goal and his play will be a story to watch throughout the season.

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