James Harden.

James Harden is now the holder of an unwanted NBA record

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James Harden's performance against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night was a big part of keeping the Houston Rockets' playoff hopes alive.

The perennial All-Star dropped 40 points in the Rockets' 130-110 win, including 20 in the final quarter as Houston kept pace with the eighth-placed Utah Jazz.

Unwanted record

Unfortunately for Harden, the Rockets' 80th game of the 2015-16 season will also be memorable for a less desirable reason. As noted by StatMuse, the Lakers game saw the 26-year-old set an unwanted NBA record.

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After turning the ball over four times against the Lakers, Harden now has 370 turnovers this season - the most by a player in a single season in league history.

The former Oklahoma City Thunder star had been level on 366 with six-time NBA All-Star Artis Gilmore heading into last night's contest. Gilmore's record has stood since the 1977-78 season.

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Harden is averaging 4.6 turnovers per game as the regular season winds down - the first time he has been above 4.0 in his seven years in the pros.

At times, though, 'The Beard' has been the only functioning part of Houston's offense. As the focal point of the 39-41 franchise, coughing up the ball has become an inevitable hazard of the job.

Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets

Moreover, a quick look at the other names near the top of the turnover statistics this season show that Harden isn't alone amongst elite guards in handing over the ball fairly regularly.

His former teammate, Russell Westbrook, is second on the list with 4.3 turnovers per game in 2015-16. John Wall (4.1) and Rajon Rondo (3.9) aren't too far behind. Stephen Curry, the league's MVP-in-waiting, is averaging 3.3 turnovers on the season.

When you are the team's primary ball handler there is always a chance you get caught out by ever more intelligent defenses.

Golden State Warriors v Houston Rockets - Game Three

Harden's increased numbers could, too, be put down to the fact that he is being forced to search out more assists as opponents become more physical in an attempt to block his famous drives to the basket. He is averaging a career-high 7.5 assists this season as a result.

Nevertheless, Harden and the Rockets staff will be disappointed to have set a new standard in the turnovers category and there is no doubt that some errant passes have come at key moments - see the Rockets' recent loss to OKC.

Still, with two games remaining and a playoff position still up for grabs, Houston are unlikely to change tactics. Harden's 40 point, 13 assist night against the Lakers proved once again his importance to the team. They'll just have to deal with the turnovers in the mean time.

Western Conference
Houston Rockets
Southwest Division
James Harden

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