'What's wrong with James?' Harden responds with season-high 39 points

By Sports Desk November 13, 2021

James Harden says he is getting back to his best but admits the high standards expected will not come easy after a season-high 39 points as the Brooklyn Nets beat the New Orleans Pelicans 120-112.

Harden improved his season average to 19.8 points per game with his haul against the Pelicans where he landed five three-pointers and registered a double-double with 12 assists too.

The 32-year-old guard's offensive output this season contrasted dramatically with his career average of 25.0 points per game, along with career-best 36.1 points per game in the 2018-19 season with the Houston Rockets.

Harden had started the new campaign slowly after rehabbing his hamstring over the offseason but is starting to return to his best, with a triple-double against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.

"I'm getting there. It wasn’t going to take long," Harden told reporters after the Pelicans win.

"This is the most talented players in the world. It's not going to be easy for me to just come out and do what I do. It takes a lot of reps, a lot of hard work to get to that point, to be playing at a point that you've seen me playing at.

"When I'm not scoring 30 points and I'm averaging 18-something points, it's like 'what's wrong with James?'. It's like, that's pretty solid still.

"I've been playing so well [in previous years], at another level where you guys set standards for me. I set standards for myself as well. for me I've just got to continue to work. I'm getting a lot better. The work don't stop."

Harden has shown flashes of his best at times throughout the early part of the season but is yet to put together a consistent run of high scoring, having reached 20 points in only four games this season prior to Friday's win.

The 2018 MVP's 39 points against the Pelicans bettered his previous season-high of 29, although he also had six turnovers.

"I can score, I know that," Harden said. "I've just got to put it together. Today was pretty solid, other than the turnovers. I've just got to continue to build.

"I felt last game at Orlando, my pace was good, I was getting to the basket, I was finding my teammates, I had that burst. Tonight the same thing, I've just got to continue to compound that feeling."

Nets head coach Steve Nash praised Harden but also urged patience as has consistently been their message this season.

"He played similar tonight as he did a couple of games on this trip," Nash said during his post-game news conference. "I think we've got to be patient with him. I think he's got some yards to go before he feels this was very night or feels at his best.

"There's the fitness, the rhythm and the confidence. For all those three things to come back it does take time. He was great tonight. He's been really good the last week or so and trending in the right direction. I don’t want to get too carried away. Let's give him time to get his game back."

Related items

  • AFCON matchday preview: Holders Algeria on the brink, Tunisia with work to do as COVID-19 cases pile up AFCON matchday preview: Holders Algeria on the brink, Tunisia with work to do as COVID-19 cases pile up

    Algeria could become the second major casualty of the Africa Cup of Nations as the group stages are concluded on Thursday.

    The defending champions head into their final – and arguably toughest – Group E match in a desperate position after failing to impress in their first two outings.

    Thursday will also bring an end to Group F, where Algeria's neighbours Tunisia have plenty of work to do as well.

    Ivory Coast v Algeria (16:00 GMT)

    With one point from two matches, Algeria head into matchday three bottom of Group E and staring into the abyss of elimination.

    Only a victory against group leaders Ivory Coast will be enough to take them into the knockouts, otherwise they will fall at the first hurdle for the third time in five AFCON tournaments.

    Ivory Coast will be hoping to gain a measure of revenge for their 2019 quarter-final penalty shoot-out defeat to the Fennec Foxes, with the Elephants heading into the game unbeaten in five AFCON games.

    They too have something to play for, with top spot still up for grabs.

    One to watch: Youcef Belaili (Algeria)

    You certainly cannot fault the effort of winger Belaili, given his eight shots is three more than any of his team-mates and he has also tallied the most touches in the opposition's box (11), but there is little getting away from the fact Algeria in general need to sharpen up in front of goal if they are to avoid following Ghana into shock elimination.

    Sierra Leone v Equatorial Guinea (16:00 GMT)

    Before the tournament started, few would have given this pair much hope of finishing in the top two, yet either could grasp that opportunity on Thursday.

    Equatorial Guinea are second and hold a one-point advantage, meaning a draw may well be enough to get them through at least as one of the best third-placed teams.

    But Sierra Leone drew 2-2 with Ivory Coast last time out following a goalless stalemate with Algeria – the results showed they are not to be taken lightly.

    Equatorial Guinea will be favourites, however, and they have only ever lost two of their eight AFCON group games.

    One to watch: Mohamed Nbalie Kamara (Sierra Leone)

    Kamara has been one of the standout goalkeepers at the tournament so far. His 12 saves are the most of anyone, and those stops have seen him record a 'goals prevented' record of 2.1, the second-best record among keepers at the AFCON.

    Gambia v Tunisia (19:00 GMT)

    Although Tunisia could potentially sneak through as one of the best third-place teams with their current haul of three points, it would be a disappointing group stage total for a side that came into the tournament with high expectations.

    Yet the Carthage Eagles' situation is slightly complicated by the fact they recorded seven new positive COVID-19 cases in the build-up, with key players Wahbi Khazri and Ali Maaloul among them.

    That will be a boost to Gambia, however, with the Scorpions aiming to become only the third AFCON debutants this century to go unbeaten in the group stage.

    But Tunisia have not lost to an AFCON debutant since the 1996 final.

    One to watch: Hannibal Mejbri (Tunisia)

    Manchester United youngster Hannibal has been used sparingly in this tournament, playing just 45 minutes so far. Yet, his tally of two chances created is only bettered by Khazri and Maaloul (both on three), and given Tunisia's COVID-19 issues, a first start may be on the cards.

    Mali v Mauritania (19:00 GMT)

    A wonderful chance presents itself here for Mali, as they target topping Group F.

    If they better Gambia's result against Tunisia, that is exactly what they will achieve, as well as extending their longest ever group stage unbeaten run to seven matches.

    Anything other than a Mali win would be a significant surprise given Mauritania are bottom of the group and pointless, their five goals conceded second-worse to Ethiopia, who have played a game more.

    One to watch: Ibrahima Kone (Mali)

    Kone has played a prominent role in Mali's solid start to the tournament, scoring a penalty in each of their two matches. If he nets against Mauritania, he will be the first Malian to tally get three goals in a single AFCON edition since former Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita in 2013.

  • ICC names T20I teams of the year, with Babar and Sciver as captains ICC names T20I teams of the year, with Babar and Sciver as captains

    The International Cricket Council has announced its men's and women's T20I teams of the year, with Pakistan's Babar Azam and England's Nat Sciver named as captains.

    Six countries are represented in the men's side, with three each from South Africa and Pakistan, two from Australia and one from England, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

    The three Pakistan players to make the team are Babar, Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Shah Afridi. Babar was the top scorer in the T20 World Cup and amassed 939 runs in 29 matches in 2021 overall. Rizwan managed 1,326 runs in the same number of matches at a strike rate of 134.89, while Afridi took 23 wickets in 21 matches at an economy of just 7.86.

    Aiden Markram, David Miller and Tabraiz Shamsi are the chosen trio from South Africa. Markram scored 570 runs in 18 matches, Miller 377 runs at a strike rate of 149.60, and wrist spinner Shamsi took 36 wickets at an impressive economy rate of 5.72.

    Australia duo Mitchell Marsh and Josh Hazlewood are also chosen, with the former making 627 runs in 21 matches and starring in the T20 World Cup final win over New Zealand.

    Hazlewood also played a huge partl in his team's World Cup success, taking 23 wickets in 15 matches at an average of 16.34.

    England's Jos Buttler makes the team after scoring 589 runs in 14 matches at 65.44 apiece, with one century. He was England's leading run-scorer in the World Cup with 269, which included a stunning century against Sri Lanka, who themselves are represented by Wanindu Hasaranga.

    The spinner was another standout performer at the World Cup with 16 wickets to his name, more than anyone else in the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Hasaranga took 36 wickets in 20 matches last year.

    The final selection is Bangladesh's Mustafizur Rahman, who claimed 28 wickets in 20 matches at an average of 17.39, as well as keeping things tight with an economy of 7.00.

    The women's team sees five English selections, including Sciver as captain, along with Tammy Beaumont, Danni Wyatt, Amy Jones and Sophie Ecclestone.

    They are joined by Smriti Mandhana (India), Gaby Lewis (Ireland), Laura Wolvaardt, Marizanne Kapp, Shabnim Ismail (all South Africa) and Loryn Phiri (Zimbabwe).

  • Van der Dussen and Bavuma hit centuries as South Africa see out ODI win over India Van der Dussen and Bavuma hit centuries as South Africa see out ODI win over India

    Rassie van der Dussen and South Africa captain Temba Bavuma starred as the Proteas claimed a 31-run win over India in the opening ODI at Paarl.

    Having won the Test series, South Africa started the three-match ODI series in confident fashion on Wednesday.

    It was not all plain sailing, with the hosts 3-68 when Van der Dussen came to the crease in the 18th over but, along with his skipper, the 32-year-old turned in a supreme performance.

    After dismissing Janneman Malan (six), the returning Quinton de Kock (27) and Aiden Markram (four), India – under the leadership of stand-in white-ball captain KL Rahul – had their tails up, but Bavuma and Van der Dussen put on a stand of 204 to take the game away from the tourists.

    Bavuma's methodical 110 from 143 deliveries – his second ODI 100 – anchored things at one end while Van der Dussen flourished at the other, hitting 129 not-out to propel South Africa to 296-4 from 50 overs.

    Rahul (12) edged Markram through to De Kock in the ninth over, but Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, playing for the first time since he was relinquishing the captaincy, seemed to have India well-placed.

    Dhawan was bowled by Keshav Maharaj (1-42) for 79, however, and Kohli (51) fell inside three overs with a failed attempt at a sweep, shortly after reaching his half-century.

    India needed 141 to win heading into their last 20 overs, yet Shreyas Iyer (17), Rishabh Pant (16), Venkatesh Iyer (two) and Ravichandran Ashwin (seven) lost their wickets in the space of six overs. 

    The impressive Shardul Thakur reached 50 with the final ball of the day, but his flurry was never enough to trouble South Africa as India finished on 265-8.

    Record-setting Van der Dussen dazzles

    "In the past, I maybe would have taken 15-20 balls to assess, but the conditions told me I had to get going from fairly early on," said Van der Dussen after his innings. 

    Getting about it early on is just what Van der Dussen did, sweeping for four off the third ball he faced. It set the tone for an exquisite display that included nine boundaries and four sixes, with his 129 n.o. reached in 96 deliveries, at a strike rate of 134.37.

    He now has the best average of any batsman to have scored at least 1,000 ODI runs, with 73.62.

    South Africa share the wickets around

    Jasprit Bumrah was the pick of India's bowlers with 2-48 from his 10 overs, though he had little support from the rest of the attack.

    The Proteas, meanwhile, had Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi and Andile Phehlukwayo each contribute two wickets, albeit Bavuma will be unhappy with some sloppiness that crept in late on, when Thakur was able to tally 16 in the 48th over.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.