1. Harden Struggles, No Problem
Thursday against the Thunder, Harden did not look like his usual self. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Luguentz Dort and the rest of the defense did a solid job slowing him down for most of the game. James finished the game with 21 points, five rebounds, and nine assists. The glaring statistic for Harden is his signature step-back three was not falling, as he went 2-for-11 from deep.
Typically when these rare struggles occur, we see Harden force turnovers and try to do too much in a losing effort. Now, Harden appears to have relaxed his approach and opted to sit down and let the bench lift the team.
When guys like Austin Rivers can come off the bench, nail back to back 3-pointers, and then cap it off with a dunk, that is huge. Jeff Green shot 3-for-6 from deep and provided 15 points off the bench. P.J Tucker also shot a perfect 4-for-4 from long range, proving he can contribute even after taking a beating in the post.
Performances like these from players not named Harden or Westbrook provide something that takes the weight off the captain’s shoulders. Now they can afford to struggle and not have to play hero ball — a major plus for a team with championship aspirations.
Next: Suffocating defense