Skip to content

James Harden scores a career-high for the second time this season against the Suns

Apr 19, 2012, 2:53 AM EDT

James Harden, Sebastian Telfair

Before the Suns faced the Thunder on Wednesday, Alvin Gentry had some high praise for Oklahoma City’s James Harden.

Phoenix’s head coach said that he and his staff were talking about Harden in preparing for this matchup, and once they got past Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade, they were hard-pressed to name a two-guard in the entire league who has played as well as Harden has this season.

Maybe it was a premonition, or maybe it was simply observation, based on the way Harden torched the Suns for what was, at the time, a career-high of 30 points. But Harden once again had a career night against the Suns, this time pouring in 40 points in the Thunder’s 109-97 win in Phoenix — one that kept OKC just a half-game from the top spot in the Western Conference standings, and one that, for now, has Phoenix on the outside of the playoff picture entirely.

Harden’s night was as efficient as it was effective. His 40 points came on just 17 shots, and they actually came on 12-of-15 shooting before he missed his final two attempts with the game having already been decided. Harden added seven rebounds, three assists, and four steals, and impacted the game every moment he was on the floor.

Things started slowly for the Thunder before Harden sprang into action. The Suns came out aggressive, and ran out to a 21-8 lead in the game’s first six-and-a-half minutes. Steve Nash had three quick assists during that span, and Phoenix was hitting open shots that were loosely contested, at best.

Then, the Thunder brought the intensity. Or more to the point, they brought Harden.

The bearded one checked in with five minutes left in the first, and sparked a monster 18-4 run to end the period, scoring 10 points during that span to put his team up four after they had trailed by as many as 13.

Harden continued to score from inside and out, but the Thunder weren’t able to pull away until late. The game had a playoff-style pace to it, but it never felt like one the Suns would be able to win. That’s because the Phoenix offense, which had been so prolific in recent weeks, especially at home, was unable to find a rhythm for much of the night.

Nash is usually unstoppable no matter what the defense throws at him, but the Thunder were able to contain him with excellent pick-and-roll defense. After those three early assists, Nash, who leads the league in that category, tallied just two more for the rest of the game, finishing with just five — to go along with five turnovers.

Thunder head coach Scott Brooks attempted to explain how his team was able to shut Nash down.

“We wanted to be able to jump the ball and really have him see a crowd and see four hands,” he said. “And our bigs and our guards did a good job of doing that and not allowing those easy passes. You can do that, and the next game he could have 12 assists and 15 points, that’s how good he is. But we did a good job on it. Our rotations were on point; we rotated quickly and got out to the shooters, also.”

It didn’t help that Nash’s main pick-and-roll partner, Marcin Gortat, struggled to find the basket, and finished just 2-of-13 from the field. He was clearly bothered by the length of Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka inside, but he also missed some close shots that he usually gets to go down.

The Suns didn’t let this one get away without showing some visible signs of frustration — Steve Nash and Alvin Gentry picked up consecutive technical fouls late in the third while the game was still in reach, and Sebastian Telfair was playing a little extra-physical with Harden in the fourth, and let his words get away from him enough to pick up a technical, as well.

The loss temporarily dropped Phoenix to ninth in the standings, a half-game behind Utah and two games behind Denver, both of whom they’ll get a chance to play head-to-head before the season is through.

Thankfully for the Suns, they won’t have to face Harden anymore in the regular season. Two games, two career-highs in points for Oklahoma City’s Sixth Man of the Year candidate off the bench.

“I just wanted to be aggressive,” he said. “It’s not particularly the Suns, I just had two good games. Especially coming off that bad second half (in Monday’s loss to the Clippers), we wanted to bounce back, and I just tried to spark some energy off the bench.”

Latest Posts
  1. 2014 PBT Awards: Most Valuable Player

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT

    Lebron James, Kevin Durant Lebron James, Kevin Durant

    Kevin Durant and LeBron James finish 1-2 on every ballot

  2. Why shot-location defense matters

    Apr 18, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT

    Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat

    Playing effective NBA defense is more about dictating shot location than contesting shots.

  3. One more amazing thing LeBron James has done

    Apr 18, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Miami Heat Toronto Raptors v Miami Heat

    Taking a lot of 3s and making a lot of 2s is not easy

  4. NBA Playoff Preview: Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers

    Apr 18, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT

    Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, David Lee, Chris Paul Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, David Lee, Chris Paul

    With Andrew Bogut the Warriors outplayed the Clippers this season, but Golden State will be without him and that is trouble.

  5. Report: NBA’s increased age limit proposal includes higher-paying D-League

    Apr 18, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT

    Adam Silver Adam Silver

    The league will try to offer a larger, better paying D-League

  6. Blake Griffin among actors for dramatic reading of “Space Jam” (VIDEO)

    Apr 18, 2014, 12:56 AM EDT

    Monstars space jam

    This is exactly what you’ve been waiting for — a dramatic reading of Space Jam including Blake Griffin and D’Andre Jordan.

  7. Son tweets Craig Sager has acute leukemia

    Apr 17, 2014, 11:18 PM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game Five Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game Five

    We may not see him on the sidelines of TNT games these playoffs.

  8. Report: Joel Anthony opting in with Celtics

    Apr 17, 2014, 9:38 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics Getty Images

    Center has $3.8 million player option

  9. Likely top-10 pick Dante Exum signs with adidas

    Apr 17, 2014, 7:05 PM EDT

    Essendon Bombers Media Opportunity Getty Images

    Adidas rolls the dice on a young guard with potential. Not a bad business plan.

  10. Kentucky’s James Young, Duke’s Rodney Hood declare for NBA draft

    Apr 17, 2014, 5:57 PM EDT

    NCAA Men's Final Four - Championship Getty Images

    Both are likely first round picks in the teens or early 20s.

  11. The Al Jefferson Effect: Now that the Bobcats are playoff-bound, how they want their big man to help next

    Apr 17, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    Steve Clifford, Cody Zeller, Al Jefferson Steve Clifford, Cody Zeller, Al Jefferson

    What affect will Jefferson have on the development of Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller?

  12. Toronto puts together fantastic playoffs preview video

    Apr 17, 2014, 4:50 PM EDT

    Timberwolves Raptors Basketball AP

    Raptors fans are pumped for the playoffs.

  13. Carmelo Anthony: “I want to come back…I also want to win.”

    Apr 17, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    Carmelo Anthony AP

    It really comes down to this: Does he trust Phil Jackson and Knicks management to build a winner quickly?

  14. LeBron James, Heat top NBA jersey sales again

    Apr 17, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat Getty Images

    You put your money where your heart is, and your heart clearly follows LeBron James and the Heat.

  15. The incredible thing about Larry Drew

    Apr 17, 2014, 2:11 PM EDT

    Larry Drew Larry Drew

    Bucks didn’t win back-to-back games all season

  16. Kobe tells Lakers’ fans to “flush” last season, has been cleared to run, shoot, prepare for next season

    Apr 17, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Kobe may be in France but he still had time to tweet Lakers fans and tell them things will be better next season.

Featured video

Handing out NBA's postseason awards
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Wade (3885)
  2. D. Williams (3817)
  3. L. James (3783)
  4. K. Love (3752)
  5. S. Curry (3561)
  1. C. Anthony (3390)
  2. R. Rondo (3160)
  3. R. Westbrook (3079)
  4. G. Dragic (3050)
  5. K. Durant (2964)