Houston Rockets moment #10: Harden hangs 42 on Mavericks
This is another of Harden’s more overlooked moments as a Rocket, but is quite the significant one as it pertains to his impact in Houston. It is all the more enjoyable that it came against the I-45 rival of the Rockets, the Dallas Mavericks.
Harden’s first year in Houston saw him put up against his then former team in the playoffs, the Oklahoma City Thunder. At this point, the Thunder were still led by his former Big 3 teammates in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and ultimately proved too much for Harden to overcome in his first postseason with Houston.
The next season Harden and the Rockets found themselves matched up with Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2014 playoffs. Any Houston fan who watched that series still remembers the painful buzzer-beating, series-ending 3-pointer made by Lillard that sent the Rockets home yet again without a playoff series win.
It wouldn’t be until his third year with the team in the 2014-15 season that James Harden would finally lead the Rockets to their first playoff series win since 2009. And it came against one of the Rockets’ home-state rivals.
Game 3 saw the Rockets with a 2-0 lead on the Mavericks, and anyone who is familiar with NBA playoff history knows that going down 3-0 in a playoff series is a death sentence. Despite not having terribly strong performances in the first two games, Harden smelled blood in the water for Game 3 and decided he was going to take away any hopes the Mavericks may have had of keeping the series in reasonable striking distance.
Harden got going right out of the gate, scoring 12 points in the first quarter and putting up 18 by the half. The second half would see him heat up for 16 in the third quarter before finishing the job in the fourth, totaling 24 points for the second half.
He would end the game with 42 points and nine assists on killer shooting splits of 62.5 percent from the field, 71.4 percent from behind the arc, and having a perfect game from the free-throw line. At the time this was his highest-scoring game in the playoffs for his career, and arguably his best playoff performance for the time as well.
His most memorable and important play of the game would come at roughly the 20-second mark in the fourth quarter. With the Rockets up by one and enough time for the Mavericks to score on the other end if they got the ball, it was crucial for the Rockets to get one more bucket.
With the 7’0 former Defensive Player of the Year in Tyson Chandler guarding him, Harden danced a little bit, took his signature step back, and drained the clutch mid-range jumper to put the Rockets up by three. This bucket would prove crucial, as the Mavericks would indeed score two points after a timeout.
Dallas would not score the basket needed to win, however, and the Rockets would walk away with a comfortable 3-0 lead in the series. They would then eventually proceed to reach the Western Conference Finals following an unprecedented comeback from a 3-1 deficit against the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round.
Harden’s explosive scoring night and late-game clutch bucket greatly helped to propel the Rockets into their first playoff series win with him. It was one of his greatest playoff performances with the Rockets, and its significance as it relates to the Harden’s effect on the franchise should not be understated.
Next: No. 9