When James Harden took 20 foul shots vs. Orlando, it marked yet new milestones for the Nets superstar. It was the 73rd time Harden has made at least 15 free throws in a game, the most such games in NBA history by 17, as Justin Kabatkso, of Statitudes noted post-game.
It was also the fifth time he’s shot at least 95 percent on 20 or more FTA, also the most such games in NBA history. He is currently and appropriately No. 13 in most free throws ever with a chance of moving into the top 10 by season’s end.
NBA history indeed and good news for both him and the Nets good news. Officials, getting accustomed to interpretations of new rules, are calling more fouls on Harden’s opponents and it’s showing up in the box score, as Newsday’s Greg Logan noted Sunday.
In the first 12 games, Harden shot six or fewer foul shots 11 times, reaching double-digits once. In the past five games, he reached double-digits four times and made 57 of 63 free throws. The impact on his scoring average has been profound. He’s averaging 21.2 points this season but 28.4 over the past five games, and by the way, he is converting a career-high 89.1% at the line.
Harden is no longer the “poster boy” for the new NBA rule that bans refs from calling fouls if an offensive player makes “a non-basketball move” to initiate contact. As Steve Nash said Friday night, things are reverting to normal ... and you simply can’t ignore Harden’s skill going to the basket.
“I do think the referees are starting to figure out what’s still a basketball foul and what a non-basketball play is,” Nash said. “Early it was difficult for them to know where the line was. He’s such a difficult guy to cover with his size, speed, quickness and ability to shoot over anyone from three that [defenders] have to get close to him.
“Then, he’s so strong that once he gets a step on you, it’s almost impossible not to foul him because it’s either get out of the way or draw contact. That’s what makes him brilliant is his ability to penetrate, to take contact and to dictate what happens when that contact happens.”
Others have suggested that Harden has subtly changed his focus from drawing fouls to getting to the rim and whatever happens, happens.
Harden (smartly) has declined to discuss officiating through what one might call the transition.
“I don’t want to talk about officiating,” Harden said. “I’m just trying to attack the basket.”
For the Nets, without Kyrie Irving and now Joe Harris, Harden’s historic attacking skill will be needed. So will his ability to make those shots at the line.
- James Harden attacks basket and again gets to foul line for Nets - Greg Logan - Newsday
- James Harden has found his way back to the foul line - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News