James Harden: Rockets' Star Proves Huge Debut Was No Fluke in Win vs. Hawks

Mike Hoag@MikeHoagJrCorrespondent IINovember 2, 2012

James Harden followed his incredible Houston Rockets debut by dropping a career-high 45 points in a 109-102 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Atlanta on Friday night.

The newly acquired shooting guard was the Sixth Man of the Year on a star-studded Oklahoma City Thunder team one season ago.

It’s clear why, after seeing his first two performances as the focal point of the Rockets’ offense.

Harden was active all over the floor, finishing 14-of-19 from the field with seven rebounds and two assists. He also hit 15-of-17 from the charity stripe.

He’s exploded for 82 points through the first two games of the season after being traded just five days before its start. That is the most in any player’s first two games with a team since Michael Jordan did it in 1986, according to Jalen Rose (via Twitter).

Some people may have wondered if his first-game heroics were somewhat of a fluke, but the Rockets’ star answered those early questions in dramatic fashion on Friday night.

He used an uncanny ability to drive to the hoop and draw fouls to get easy buckets and give himself opportunities at the free-throw line.

Harden didn’t just put up numbers; he was clutch and an integral part of his team outlasting a late Hawks surge.

With the game locked at 92 in the fourth quarter, Harden made consecutive baskets, including a three-point play to give the Rockets a five-point lead that they wouldn’t give up.

ESPN analyst J.A. Adande and Chamillionaire weighed in after the game on Twitter:

42 points? James Harden ain't playin

— J.A. Adande (@jadande) November 3, 2012

OKC shoulda cut that Harden Check. That boy is the future...

— Chamillionaire (@chamillionaire) November 3, 2012

Harden is clearly capable of playing a bigger role and earning more money for what he brings to the table. No one could or should blame him for wanting to get what he had coming to him when he turned down the Thunder's offer and sought a max contract.

He’s getting it alright.

I wonder what Scott Brooks, Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder are thinking right now...