What went wrong on the Rockets’ notorious late-game possession?

Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
2 of 3
Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets James Harden Mike D’Antoni Russell Westbrook (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Mike D’Antoni/James Harden not on same page

After the game Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni was asked about whether the Rockets were trying to get the ball into Harden’s hands, and he stated that they were. This seems like the logical move, considering the fact that Harden is the best player in the series and the best scorer in the league.

It goes without saying that if the Rockets are ever in need of a basket, Harden is the go-to guy, due to his ability to drive and initiate contact, which could either yield free throws or easy points in the paint. We’ve also seen Harden hit game-winning jumpers from 3-point range, and the Rockets had the ability to opt for the last shot, meaning a Harden 3-pointer would have won the game in this situation.

However, the Rockets went away from Harden on more possessions than the one that got everyone talking. With the game tied 98-98, the Rockets went away from Harden in each of the next three posessions, which resulted in an Eric Gordon missed 3-pointer, a missed layup from Westbrook, and a missed jumpshot by Westbrook.

But Harden was asked about the possession in which Westbrook turned the ball over and offered a bit of a different response than what D’Antoni said. Harden stated, “The play was for Russ to attack the basket, and he attacked the basket. He made the decision he felt was open.”

The Rockets’ mismanagement of the final moments of the game drew scrutiny from the national media, and perhaps none bigger than ESPN’s Tim Legler, who offered a lengthy quote on ESPN’s Get Up.

Next: Legler shares thoughts