January 25, 2019 7:00 am

Rick Zamperin: Houston Rockets star James Harden is blowing our minds

Houston Rockets guard James Harden gestures during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019.

AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer

Is there a better basketball player on the planet right now than James Harden?

You don’t have to answer that. It was a rhetorical question. Of course there isn’t, and it’s not even close.

The Houston Rockets star is having an epic season and is the slam dunk (pardon the pun) favourite to win the league’s Most Valuable Player Award for a second straight year.

Harden is coming off a career-high 61-point game in New York on Wednesday night, which tied Kobe Bryant’s single-game record for a visiting player at Madison Square Garden.

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It was the fifth time this season that the 29-year-old native of Bellflower, California has scored at least 50 points in a game. And that’s just one snippet of Harden’s mind-numbing stats.

“The Beard” has scored at least 50 points in three of his last five games. He is averaging 45.3 points per game in January (11 games) and has scored at least 30 points in a modern-day record 21 consecutive games. The legendary Wilt Chamberlain holds the NBA record with 65 straight 30-point games in 1964.

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Harden, who will lead the Rockets into their home game Friday night against the Toronto Raptors, is averaging 36.3 points per game this season. That’s a full seven points better than Golden State’s Stephen Curry and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, who are tied for second with 29.3.

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If the NBA season were to end today, Harden would hold the seventh-highest single-season points per game mark in league history. Chamberlain holds the top four spots, including a record 50.4 in 1961-62, while Michael Jordan has the fifth highest output (37.1, 1986-97).

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Through 44 games, Harden has shown no signs of slowing down. In fact, the opposite is true. He averaged 28.3 points per game in October, 31.3 in November, 36.4 in December, and has blown those numbers out of the water this month.

How do you stop him? Apparently no team has found an answer.

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