Love or hate his style of play, there’s no denying that James Harden is on a historic scoring binge.
After pouring in 37 points Monday night, the Houston Rockets star has now scored at least 30 in 20 consecutive games. Harden’s streak is the longest since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77 and tied with Wilt Chamberlain for the fourth-longest all-time.
Chamberlain is the only other player in NBA history to score at least 30 points in 20 consecutive games. The legendary center had four such streaks in the early 1960s, including an all-time record 65 consecutive 30-point games during the 1961-62 season.
The game is very different now than in Chamberlain’s day, so it’s incredibly difficult to compare eras. The 3-point line that Harden and his contemporaries have used to transform the game wasn’t instituted in the NBA until the 1979-80 season — seven years after Chamberlain retired.
Rather than compare Harden’s streak to any of Chamberlain’s, or debate whose scoring run is more impressive, let’s simply take a moment to marvel at Harden’s dominance. Here are some eye-popping numbers from a scoring tear the likes of which we haven’t seen in over half a century:
► Harden is averaging 42.3 points a game during his streak. He’s averaging 40.2 points over his last 23 games. Only Chamberlain (515), Elgin Baylor (33) and Kobe Bryant (23) have ever averaged at least 40 points over as many games — and no, 515 is not a typo.
► Harden has raised his season scoring average to 35.7 points a game. In the last 40 years, Michael Jordan is the only player to average more over a season (37.1 in 1986-87).
► The last four games have been particularly prolific, with Harden scoring a total of 200 points. He’s the first player with 200 in a four-game span since Kobe Bryant in March 2007, and none of Harden’s points have come via an assist from a teammate.
► The reigning MVP has scored at least 40 points 12 times during his streak (and 16 times overall this season). Anthony Davis is second in the league this season with seven 40-point games, and Steph Curry has six.
► Harden has poured in over 50 points three times during his run (four total this season). Eight other players have scored at least 50 in a game this season, and none have done it more than once. With 57 and 58 points in consecutive games last week, Harden joined Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to score 55 in back-to-back games.
► As noted, Harden is at the forefront of the league’s 3-point revolution. During his 30-point streak, he’s attempted 308 shots from long range (15.4 per game), a 20-game total that would rank 11th overall this season. For the year, Harden leads the league in 3-pointers attempted (563) and made (213).
► The most polarizing aspect of Harden’s game is his ability to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line. He’s led the league in free-throw attempts in each of the last four seasons and five of the last six. Over the last 20 games, Harden has attempted 282 free throws (14.1 per game), which would rank ninth in the league. Overall, Harden leads the NBA in free throws attempted (498) and made (430).
► The only number that surely matters to Harden in the Rockets’ record. Houston is 14-6 in the last 20 games to improve to 26-20 overall. During Harden’s streak, the Rockets have moved from 14th place in the Western Conference to fifth.
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.