Mar 11, 2015; Portland, OR, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives past Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum (88) during the third quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
Argument: The Rockets can’t close games against elite teams.
While there have been a few isolated games where the Rockets have struggled late, the numbers tell quite a different story.
According to Ethan Strauss:
NBA Standings in 1 point, 1 minute left games. Good for the Grizz and Rockets. Bad for the Spurs and Thunder pic.twitter.com/eKRR7gNhxk
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) March 18, 2015
Maybe some of those games aren’t against elite teams, but the fact of the matter is that when the game is on the line the Rockets come through, and this is undoubtedly one of the most important factors in winning playoff series.
Against this grueling Western conference, the Rockets are 25-16 and have notched several critical wins throughout the season including two wins against Oklahoma City and Memphis.
When it comes to closing out games, everyone watching knows where the ball is going to: James Harden. According to NBA Stats, in games where the Rockets are tied or behind with one minute left and a two point differential Harden shoots 71.4% and averages 1.0 point, which is 7th in the league (realistically, he’s ranked higher because the data includes players that wouldn’t normally be qualified to be included).
If these playoff games come down to the last play, there are very few (if any) players that I’d rather have the ball than James Harden. When the game is on the line, Harden has proved he is more than capable of carrying Houston home as he did against Phoenix.
And San Antonio:
Finally, how could we ever forget Harden’s remarkable game against OKC in 2013 where he completely took over the game and led Houston to victory?
One of Houston’s games against OKC this year provides further proof of the Rockets ability to grind it out in close games. The final score was 69-65 and it was an ugly, ugly game, but the point is that the Rockets shut it down defensively and managed a win.
That is the difference between the Rockets this year and the Rockets teams of the past. We are finding ways to win games, whereas in the past we faltered late in games and gave them away.
Harden has everything Houston needs in a closer and come playoff time I fully expect Harden to come through in the clutch.
Next: Can Houston Limit Their Turnovers?