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NBA Preview: James Harden Hits 20,000 Points

James Harden has been on a scoring binge the likes of which has rarely been seen in the annals of NBA history. Assuming he doesn’t fall off a cliff this season, Harden will join Kareem, Wilt, and MJ as the only players ever to average 30+ points per game for a seven-year period. And on Monday he eclipsed 20,000 points for his career, good for 49th all-time in the NBA/ABA. On Wednesday night he’ll almost certainly pass Antawn Jameson (20,042) and Tom Chambers (20,049) to move into 47th place (from there, he’ll have to be a little patient, as Joe Johnson sits at 46th with 20,405). As the season approaches the halfway mark, Harden has scored 1,395 points; if he does that again in the second half, he’ll move into 41st place, between Walt Bellamy (20,941) and Hal Greer (21,586). And next year, he’s likely to pass Larry Bird, Gary Payton, Clyde Drexler, Elgin Baylor, Dwayne Wade, Adrian Dantley, Robert Parrish, and Charles Barkley — that’s not a bad list.

Here’s what else to look forward to in the NBA this week:

Wednesday, January 15
Brooklyn Nets (18-20) vs Philadelphia 76ers (25-16)
7pm ET on ESPN
The Brooklyn Nets’ season may have been saved Monday night with the return of guard Kyrie Irving, who scored a game-high 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting in just 20 minutes of the team’s 108-86 win over the Hawks. It was Irving’s first time on the floor since hurting his shoulder in mid-November. Ben Simmons’ 24-14 line on Monday wasn’t quite enough for the Sixers, who fell to the Pacers 101-95, even after leading by 11 in the 3rd.

Portland Trail Blazers (17-24) vs Houston Rockets (26-12)
9:30pm ET on ESPN
The Blazers withstood a 43-point 3rd quarter from the Hornets on Monday to hold on for a 115-112 victory in which Dame Lillard scored 30 points and had 9 assists. James Harden posted a 32-12-8 line on Monday (we won’t speak of the 11 turnovers) to lead the Rockets to a 139-109 victory over the T’wolves and push himself past 20,000 points for his career.

Thursday, January 16
Boston Celtics (27-11) vs Milwaukee Bucks (35-6)
8pm ET on TNT
With Jayson Tatum leading the team with 21 points, the Celtics on Monday outscored Chicago 28-14 in the 1st quarter en route to a 113-101 victory. The Bucks outscored the Blazers in every quarter of their 122-101 win on Saturday. Milwaukee got 32 points and 17 boards from Giannis Antetokounmpo, who now leads the league with 34 double-doubles.

Denver Nuggets (27-12) vs Golden State Warriors (9-31)
10:30pm ET on TNT
The Nuggs have been sliding a bit lately, having won just 6 of their last 10. However, they got a big 114-104 win over the Clippers on Sunday, as Nikola Jokic led Denver in points, rebounds and assists with a 20-15-6 line. The Warriors dropped their 8th straight on Sunday, falling 122-102 to Memphis, though D’Angelo Russell did manage 34 points.

Friday, January 17
Chicago Bulls (14-27) vs Philadelphia 76ers (25-16)
7pm ET on ESPN
Zach Levine scored 30 points, but had three times as many turnovers (6) as assists in the Bulls’ 113-101 loss to the Celtics on Monday. The Sixers have dropped 9 of their last 14 games; troublingly, 5 of those losses have come by double-digits.

Portland Trail Blazers (17-24) vs Dallas Mavericks (24-15)
9:30pm ET on ESPN
Despite having won just 3 of their last 10, the Blazers are still within shouting distance of the 8th seed, a game-and-a-half behind Memphis. Luka Dončić was off the mark for much of Saturday’s 109-91 win over the Sixers, hitting just 4-of-15 shots from the floor. However, he did manage a team-high 19 points by hitting 10-of-12 free throws, while dishing out 12 assists.

Stats through Monday, courtesy of Basketball Reference