When Harden Draws Fouls, the Rockets are Tough to Beat
In games that Harden has scored more than his season average of 34.4, the Rockets are 25-6. In games where he failed to exceed it, they are 15-18. The loss of a single free throw attempt morphs the Rockets from a team that can beat anyone to a lottery team.
James Harden and the Rockets are at their best when Harden is getting to the line, and while it has been a strategy that shatters defenses in the regular season, it has repeatedly seen a cruel twist of fate in the playoffs.
The Rockets’ offense is incredibly reliant on the referees’ willingness to blow the whistle. Unfortunately, come playoff time, the referees have opted to swallow their whistles often. Since joining the Rockets, Harden has seen his free throw attempt rate drop virtually every postseason except for 2014-15, which, unsurprisingly, was his best postseason with the Rockets.
Oftentimes, Harden’s free throw rate dropped more than 10 percent from the regular season to the postseason — four out of the seven years, to be exact. The 2014 playoffs showed the biggest dropoff at 32 percent, while the 2018 season saw a 31 percent decrease. With Harden’s marquee skill being muted, his overall performance has suffered and cost the Rockets big games.
Next: How the Refs Changed When Harden Arrived in Houston