Houston Rockets: Will Harden have to be in attack mode for the Rockets to win?

Houston Rockets Wesley Matthews (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Wesley Matthews (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

The Houston Rockets lost their opening game against the Milwaukee Bucks, which resulted in James Harden taking responsibility for the outcome.

The Houston Rockets fell to the Milwaukee Bucks in their home opener despite leading 66-50 at halftime. The Rockets came out flat in the second half and continued the trend of blowing large leads, as they scored a mere 21 points in the third and were outscored 39-24 in the fourth.

After the game ended, James Harden took blame for the loss, saying he wasn’t aggressive enough on the offensive end. While it’s true that Harden only made two of his 13 field goal attempts, he played the role of facilitator, as he had a game-high 14 assists. Aside from that, Harden got to the free throw line 14 times, nailing each of his free throws.

You have to love and appreciate that Harden is willing to take responsibility for the loss, but the reality is, the Rockets will have to be able to win games in which Harden isn’t the leading scorer, especially if he’s getting 14 assists. To that point, according to NBA.com, Harden could have had 29 assists in the opener were it not for the Rockets missing shots. But the Rockets shot 36.7 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from deep, which were both well below their 44.6 field goal percentage and 35.6 3-point percentage from the 2018-2019 season.

The Rockets have certainly gotten used to Harden carrying the team with his sheer scoring ability, but with Westbrook on the roster and the other shooters the Rockets have on the roster, Harden shouldn’t have to carry the torch offensively every game in order to win games. But on top of that, there will be games where Harden doesn’t have it going offensively, and the Rockets will need to be able to pull out wins in the competitive Western Conference where every game will be crucial in the playoff race. Last season, there were five games in which Harden had 15 or fewer field goal attempts, and the Rockets went 4-1 during those games, which gives hope that Harden won’t have to be the brilliant scoring machine he was during his “unguardable tour” of the 2018-2019 season.

As the leader of the team, it’s admirable for Harden to take full responsibility for a loss, but the reality is that Harden will likely have many more games like the opener. This will especially be the case when Russell Westbrook has the hot hand as he did against Milwaukee. During the fourth quarter against the Bucks, Westbrook scored 16 Houston’s 24 points, so the right move for Harden was to continue to let Westbrook take over offensively, as he had the hot hand.

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Hopefully, the Houston Rockets will be able to pull out wins without Harden having to always be aggressive offensively going forward.