Houston Rockets moment #8: Playoff game-winner in 2016
The first true game-winning play to make this list features Harden and the Rockets once again matched up with the team most resembling their rival throughout the latter half of the 2010s; the Golden State Warriors. After being defeated 4-1 by the same team in the 2015 Western Conference Finals, the Rockets once again faced the challenge in the first round of the 2016 playoffs.
Sadly, the result would be the same and the Rockets would be sent home in five games, but not before Harden would give fans an unforgettable shot to add to their memory bank of Harden’s greater moments.
With 14 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Rockets found themselves in a position that was nerve-wracking, but should have ultimately been in their favor. After all, they had the lead and the ball was in their possession for an inbound play. All they had to do was get the ball in smoothly and probably sink a couple of free throws to put them up by three.
Unfortunately, a bad inbound pass from Trevor Ariza would allow Shaun Livingston to steal the ball and pass it to Ian Clark for the fast-break layup, putting the Warriors up by one with 10 seconds to go in the game. Even worse for the Rockets was that they had no more remaining timeouts, so they could not stop the game to draw up a play for a winning basket.
It was go-time for the Rockets. With hardly any time to spare they had to inbound the ball, get it up the floor quickly, and hope that they could make a play to score and save them from a loss caused by an embarrassing last-second blunder.
Luckily for the city of Houston, James Harden was just the man to accomplish this.
With the ball in his hands and precious little time, Harden made his way up the floor, went right at Andre Igoudala, spun, took a step back, and drained the mid-range shot with two seconds left in the game, putting the Rockets back up once again.
From there the Warriors would call a timeout, but fail to execute a game-winning play. Harden’s clutch gene had successfully won out against the odds.
The difficulty of the shot, the minuscule amount of time Harden had to execute it, and the fact that the Rockets were behind and would have lost this game without it are what earn this moment its place on this list. This is one of Harden’s most clutch feats during his time in Houston, and it came during a high-leverage moment against one of the best teams of all time.
Next: No. 7