James Harden Bolsters MVP Resume with Historic 2-Day Stretch

Bleacher Report MilestonesB/R StaffMarch 20, 2017

Houston Rockets MVP candidate James Harden dropped 40 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists during Saturday's 109-105 victory over the Denver Nuggets. In doing so, he became the first player in NBA history to collect two 40-point triple-doubles on consecutive days, per ESPN. On Friday, he posted a 41-14-11 line in a loss at New Orleans

With Saturday's performance, Harden has also totaled an impressive eight 40-point triple-doubles on the season. His most historic was a 53-point, 17-assist, 16-rebound effort against the New York Knicks on New Year's Eve—marking the first time a player has ever posted a 50-15-15 game, per the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Beard is averaging 29.2 points (44.6 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from three), 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds over 36.5 minutes per game on the year. Those numbers have arguably made him one of the front-runners for what many consider to be a four-way MVP race between him, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard.

In addition to leading the league in total assists (786) and win shares (13.6)—an advanced statistic that estimates the number of wins a player produces for his team—Harden's bread and butter remains his ability to get to the charity stripe and to knock down free throws. He leads the NBA in both attempts (770) and makes (654) from the line and is on pace for career highs in both categories.

Harden also boasts a usage rate of 34.3 percent—behind only Russell Westbrook and DeMarcus Cousins—running the show for coach Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced, hyperefficient offensive scheme largely based on eliminating the long two-point shot in exchange for a barrage of threes and layups. The Rockets rank second in pace (behind the Brooklyn Nets), fifth in percentage of shots taken from within three feet and first in percentage of shots taken from three-point territory.

The Rockets are 48-22 and sitting comfortably in the third spot in the Western Conference playoff hunt. They trail the Spurs by 5.5 games and leading the Jazz by 5.0 games. With that in mind, the Rockets' first-round matchup seems like it will largely be determined by how the fourth through seventh seeds shake out. Those spots are occupied by the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies, who are all within three games of one another.

Regardless of the first-round opponent, its game plan will likely focus on slowing down Hardenwho demonstrates on a game-to-game basis why he's worthy of MVP consideration.

Advanced statistics courtesy Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

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