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James Harden Beats LeBron James While Equaling Michael Jordan

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James Harden of the Houston Rockets filled the box score on Thursday with 35 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds and 5 steals in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

James Harden always seems to have extra motivation when he faces off against LeBron James, but on Thursday night he not only helped his Houston Rockets beat James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, 117-113, but in doing so he reached a statistical achievement that had only been accomplished by one other player in the last 30 years: Michael Jordan.

Harden’s final line for the night included 35 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds and 5 steals. The last player to have at least 35-10-10-5 in a game was Jordan, who did it in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers in January 1989. Assists and steals have only been official statistics since the 1983-4 season, but going back that far adds just two more players that have accomplished the feat: Terry Cummings of the Milwaukee Bucks in January 1987 and Micheal Ray Richardson of the Nets in October of 1985.

Harden’s game against Cleveland was not without faults, as he shot just 1 for 8 in the fourth quarter of a fairly close game. But, on the heels of a 56-point performance against the Utah Jazz on Sunday, he recorded his 33rd career triple-double. It was the second career game in which he had a triple-double with five steals.

When asked by reporters this week if he drew extra motivation from big performances by star players, Harden said he was actually driven by watching young players like Donovan Mitchell of the Jazz, Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics and Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers.

But there is an argument to be made that Harden brings his best when James is around, as in his last three games against James and the Cavaliers — two of which Houston has won — Harden has averaged 38 points, 13 assists and 9.3 rebounds.

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