James Harden's numbers have declined from last season's astronomic heights early on in the 2019-20 campaign. His 29.3 points per game remain impressive, but he made only 28.6 percent of his field goals and 15 percent of his 3-pointers in his first three games. Harden's volume ensures that he will always put up points, but three games into the year, he hadn't done so very efficiently.
That all changed on Wednesday, as Harden had one of the greatest games of his career, finishing with 59 points on 18-of-32 shooting. The problem for Houston? The entire Washington roster was just as good. All nine Wizards who played in this game shot 50 percent or better from the field. They made 62.6 percent of their shots overall, and hit 20 3-pointers to control most of this game. With 4:27 remaining on the game clock, the Wizards led by 11. That set up one of the craziest endings in recent NBA history.
The Rockets scrambled to take back to lead, and needed a reviewed offensive interference call on Russell Westbrook to do it. P.J. Tucker fouled Bradley Beal's on a potential game-tying 3-point attempt with only 8.1 seconds remaining. He made all three free throws to tie the game at 158, but Harden drew a foul and sank a game-winning free throw to give the Rockets the win at 159-158.
The game hit a number of historical benchmarks. It was the first game since 1990 in which the two teams combined for over 300 points in regulation. The winning team of that game, the Denver Nuggets, ironically had the exact same record as the Rockets after that win at 3-1. The Wizards tied the NBA record for the most points scored in a regulation loss at 158. That marked belong to those same 1990-91 Denver Nuggets, who lost 162-158 to the Golden State Warriors only 12 days later.
Harden's 59-point outing was the fourth time he reached that benchmark since entering the league in 2009-10. Only Devin Booker has even two-such games in that span, and only seven others have done it once (Carmelo Anthony, Damian Lillard, LeBron James, Kemba Walker, Kobe Bryant, Anthony Davis and Klay Thompson). Harden scored 50 on the road against the Wizards last season as well.
It will take days to tally up how many total records were matched or broken in this game. It was one of the greatest offensive showings by two teams on the same court in the history of basketball, and it is a loss that the Wizards will not soon forget.