I’m tempted to describe last night’s 45-point masterpiece as "vintage James Harden," but if you've watched many of his biggest playoff games, you know I can't do that. Instead, we have to describe it as something like "the best version of late-stage James Harden."
He poured in 45 points on 30 shots, and unlike in many of his previous scoring outbursts, he did it mostly without going to the free-throw line. The Sixers as a team did not take a foul shot in the first half, and Harden attempted only four of them for the game. (He went 4-4, natch.) Instead, Harden just kept drilling difficult shot after difficult shot, and from everywhere on the floor.
In the first round against the Nets, Harden looked like he could barely move. And his lack of explosion was reflected in his inability to get to or finish near the basket. In four games, he made just 9 of 34 shots from 2-point range. He exceeded that made shot total in Game 1 against Boston alone, connecting on 10 of his 16 attempted twos.
More interesting than the fact that he made eight twos, though, was that he made eight non-restricted area 2-point shots.
Obviously, we know that for the significant majority of his career in Houston and beyond, Harden’s shot chart consistent almost exclusively of threes and layups.
Do you know how many times he has made at least eight 2-point shots outside of the restricted area in a single game? (We’re counting only games from the Second Spectrum era, which stretches back to the 2013-14 season, because that’s the time period during which I can most easily find the data.)