It’s no secret that James Harden’s performance is the defining factor for the Rockets on a nightly basis.
It’s pretty simple; if James Harden plays well, the Houston Rockets usually win. If he struggles, they have a tendency to lose. The Beard is the only consistent source of offense on the entire team, and boasts the highest usage rate in the league to prove it.
If he were unstoppable all the time, it’d be a great strategy. The only issue is that there a few teams who have successfully slowed him down this year, and the Golden State Warriors are one of them. For today’s Daily Rocket Science, we’ll take a look at the effects of Houston Rockets basketball effectively being the Harden Show.
Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web
First and foremost, do the Rockets have any hope of beating the Warriors if they continue their hero-ball strategy? Sam Amick of USA Today wrote about how the Warriors have figured out the secret to containing James Harden. Houston has a chance to steal a game or two if Steph Curry ends up sitting for a while, but their team defense is designed to stop a player like Harden.
"Thompson, like so many of the game’s elite perimeter defenders, is a true student of the game. He memorizes tendencies, comes up with counters, and maintains the kind of mental focus it takes to increase those odds that are always in the scorer’s favor. But with Harden, this is a process that began at the ripe age of 15."
One of the players who is most affected by the Harden Show on a nightly basis is big man Dwight Howard. He’s averaged a near career-low in shot attempts per game this season, and that is largely due to James running the offense so much of the time. However, according to ESPN’s Calvin Watkins, Howard has no intention of demanding more touches for the remainder of the year. He’s committed to doing whatever it takes to win, one of the many great qualities in D12 that constantly gets overlooked.
"“As a competitor, I’m going to get the job done, no matter what it takes,” Howard said. “If I get the ball, if I don’t get the ball, if I score two points or I score 30 points. I got to go out there and play as hard as I can as long as I’m on the floor, that’s all that really matters.”"
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While Howard is affected nightly by the run-every-single-play-through-James-Harden strategy most often, the man who was affected most negatively by it was former head coach Kevin McHale. He was fired just eleven games into the season this year, after the Rockets started 4-7. The losses could have arguably been prevented, but the Beard’s slump at the beginning of the season sure didn’t help them out. Now, at the end of the season, Houston GM Daryl Morey spoke out on why McHale got the boot via the question-and-answer site, Quora.
"Was this decision fair? No. Was it correct? That is unknown as we don’t know what coach McHale would have done if he had stayed. I am comfortable we made the best decision for the team with the information we had at the time. I know this, when Kevin coaches again a team is going to get one hell of a coach."
The Rockets play tonight in game 2 of this uphill battle of a series, and it may be that an overhaul of strategy is necessary to take down the record-settingly incredible Warriors. I’m not sure how James Harden will feel about that, but he might not have much of a choice if he wants a shot at winning.
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