The second half, or, more precisely, the final 25 games of the season, starts this Thursday for the Houston Rockets. There are still plenty of great plays to be had the remainder of the year, but for now, let’s enjoy James Harden’s top five plays of the season.
5. Right-Handed Poster On Rudy Gobert
James Harden put Gobert on a POSTER! pic.twitter.com/Z4SFfDSpAV— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) December 18, 2018
This might have been only five plays, but I can’t tell you how much I rearranged these. I initially had this one sitting at No.3, but I moved it all the way up to No.5, and here’s why: Harden has been dunking on a lot of people since the playoffs, and there have been better. For one, he doesn’t really cock back as strongly as he can because he went up with his right. Gobert doesn’t go body-to-body with him, and even though it’s not Harden’s fault, it’s not as disrespectful as it could be. Lastly, Harden doesn’t emote like has has been lately, and that adds so much to what the dunk means.
That being said, a natural-born lefty dropped a right-handed hammer on the 7’1” reigning Defensive Player of the Year AND a Utah Jazz player. You can’t ask for a better combination than that.
4. Harden drops Jamal Murray
In the future, I’m probably going to hate myself for not having this higher, but I’m fine for right now - I say with doubt.
There are SO many things happening here. Murray tried very HARD to prove that he can stick with Harden, and then he subsequently gets dropped with a behind-the-back dribble. And I mean down-on-his-hands-and-knees DROPPED.
Not only did you get your ankles broken, but he went behind the back too?
To make matters worse, Murray scrambles back to his feet, charges at Harden, clips him on the jumper, and Harden makes the four-point play. All due respect for Murray trying to get back on defense, but that’s the worst possible outcome on that sequence.
To recap all of that: Murray tries really hard on defense, Harden goes behind the back, Murray drops on all fours, Harden sets to shoot, Murray charges at him and fouls him, and Harden makes the shot for a four-point play.
The big question is, if Harden misses the shot due to the foul, is the highlight null? Maybe Murray was onto something.
(Also, I’m glad there was no “clean up on aisle three” call)
3. Dunk for 61 at MSG
You’ll never guess: This one was ALSO tough to put in its position. But so much history is made in just one sequence, and it really is a great play.
On the surface, Harden stays in great position on defense, finishes the fantastic play Gordon made on the ball, and throws down an emphatic dunk to seal the win. What it actually was is Harden setting his career high in points and tying Kobe Bryant for the most points scored by an opponent at MSG in one fell swoop - all of this with only 9.8 seconds left to go in the game.
2. Left-Handed Poster On Javale McGee
A lot of people might disagree agree with this at No.2, but I don’t care. I love posters, and boy, is this a perfect poster. Everything about this is fantastic.
Harden blows by his defender off a jab step (the best way to start a dunk). McGee sees Harden charging down the lane and completely leaves his assignment and commits 110 percent on Harden. The seven-footer goes body-to-body and gets completely HAMMERED on.
The extracurriculars is what takes this play over the top.
McGee is somewhat coming down on Harden at the end, so Harden *ahem* responsibly moves his body away from him, so that they don’t collide. McGee then tries to catch his balance and spills his long body almost all the way to the free-throw line. And of course, Harden snarls and flexes and emotes like no other.
Everything about this play is so darn perfect.
1. Game-Winner Over Golden State In Overtime
This is no surprise at all that it’s here at No.1. It’ll probably end up being Harden’s best play of the year, while simultaneously being in contention for the NBA’s best play of the year.
I could literally write an entire article on this play, and I did. Read about all the best videos and pictures from this play in an article that took me a really long time to put together.
I will also leave you with arguably the best picture of the year.