Brooklyn Nets

James Harden: 'The Beard' is building a legitimate MVP case in Brooklyn

James Harden's Brooklyn Nets career is just 38 games old.

However, in the short stint, he's already been breaking and setting new franchise records, leading the team to victories by taking over 'clutch games'.

On Tuesday (ET) against the Portland Trail Blazers, in the first of a three-game road trip without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, he finished with 25 points and tied his career-high with 17 assists in the 116-112 win.

The 17 assists are the most by a Nets player since Deron Williams in 2012.

A week earlier in Indiana, again without Irving and Durant, Harden balled out with 40 points, 15 points, 10 rebounds. to lead the team to a 16-point comeback win. The stat line, not only made him only the fourth player in NBA history with at least 100 40-point games but also made him only the second player in franchise history after Vince Carter to record a 40-point triple-double.

A couple of days earlier against the New York Knicks, he broke yet another record with his all-around contribution.

More importantly, his play has been the key to the team finishing with wins. Since they acquired him, Brooklyn is 23-8 - the second-best record in the league in that span.

This victory over the Trail Blazers is the Nets' 16th in their last 18, helping them the Nets remain within striking distance (1.0) of the Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers (31-13). During a 14-1 stretch during the team's recent form, Beard is averaging a 25-point triple-double.

A lot of these positive results are courtesy of Harden's performance in clutch situations. For the season, since landing in Brooklyn, Harden is among the top-six clutch scorers in the league.

In Portland, after checking back into the game, he assisted on every one of the team's field goals (five assists that led to 11 of the team's last 14 points). In Indiana, Harden scored or assisted on 23 of the Nets' 35 fourth-quarter points as they outscored the hosts by 11. Against the Knicks, who made the game interesting late by coming back from 18 down, he scored (8) or assisted on 10 of the team's last 14 points.

In the team's previous game against the Pistons earlier, he came up huge as well.

Another notable game to look back on was against the Miami Heat, just a week after joining the Nets in January, he scored or assisted on 13 of the team's 15-0 game-sealing run.

According to Basketball-Reference, Harden now ranks top-4 in the league in win shares and is fourth among leading candidates for MVP.

On NBA.com's most recent MVP Ladder by Michael C. Wright, Harden was on the outside looking in at eighth, but if he continues to log games like these, especially on the occasions the Nets suit up without Kevin Durant, it would be safe to bet on his rise.

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