Rockets’ James Harden Makes Big Defensive Play Despite Off Shooting Night
Houston Rockets’ guard James Harden was having a terrible night on the offensive end of the court, but a clutch defensive play made him the hero of Game 7 as Houston eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.
Harden raced to close out on a three-point attempt from Thunder guard Lu Dort, who was wide open on the left wing, and blocked Dort’s shot that could have won the game, and the series, for the Oklahoma City with 4.8 seconds remaining.
“Like [Nipsey] Hussle said, never let a hard time humble us,” Harden said, according to ESPN’s Tim McMahon. “It was just one of those nights offensively, so I just wanted to change the game defensively. I think I did that.”
With the Thunder heading home, the Rockets will now prepare for Game 1 of their series against the Los Angeles Lakers that starts on Friday night.
Harden had a terrible night on offense, managing 17 points on 4-of-15 shooting, but he didn’t sugar coat his play during the post-game interview.
“Offensively, I played like s—. Excuse my language,” Harden told ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth following the game. “I couldn’t hit a shot. I turned the ball over. Just doing everything that’s not supposed to happen, but I just kept sticking with it. My teammates gave me confidence throughout the course of the game, and defensively I had to make a play.”
Harden has been criticized for being an offensive only guard who didn’t show up on the defensive side of the court, but his play on Wednesday night certainly hushed those critics for now.
“James has been playing defense,” Rockets guard Russell Westbrook said. “I think if media and people actually look at the numbers — since you guys like to look at numbers — look at them and then you’ll get your answers. James defends.”
“You know how the narratives go,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Once you get stuck with a label, it’s tough for NBA players to shed that label. I’ve coached so many guys who have improved different areas of their game where people just keep writing about how bad it is, because they don’t really study the film and watch and understand totally. And I think James’ defense got a lot better.
“He’s been locked in, and I think he knows that for us to be able to win at a good clip, the defense has to be there. He’s just taking the challenge and doing a great job.”
“It’s cool to get 40 or 50 points or shoot the ball extremely well,” Harden said. “Obviously, we all want to do that. But for it to pay off when it counts on the defensive end, it shows that I’ve been engaged and locked in. For it to show in a clutch moment, it means a lot.”