James Harden’s playing style is no secret to anybody. He is one of the best isolation threats in the league, and teams often try to force the ball out of his hands with pressure and double teams.
Perhaps the defense is getting to Harden. In the final play of the Rockets’ 122-119 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on Friday, Harden was triple-teamed and had the ball knocked out of his hands before he could get off a potential game-tying shot attempt.
After the game, Harden voiced his frustration about the way teams are playing him:
Rockets’ James Harden on the attention he’s seeing: “The whole season they’re running doubles teams at me. I’ve never seen that in an NBA game where you’ve got really good defenders & someone else running at the top of the key. Y’all let me know the last time you’ve seen that.” pic.twitter.com/eVxRUgds76
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) November 23, 2019
Steph would beg to differ
NBA Twitter was quick to point out the fact that Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry has often received similar treatment, most notably in last season’s NBA Finals when the Toronto Raptors used a box-and-one scheme against him.
And in the Western Conference Finals, with Kevin Durant out, Curry was faced with the Portland Trail Blazers’ undivided attention every second.
Teammates have to step up
So, you don’t really have to look too far to find another player who has been keyed in on as much as Harden. This is more out of respect to Harden’s game, though, than anything else. Despite being guarded closely the second he crosses halfcourt, the former MVP is in the midst of his best offensive season to date, averaging 38.3 points, 7.8 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game.
The simple solution would be for Harden to let the other four players take the open shots that will come as a result. Russell Westbrook may be integrating himself into the roster, but he would surely welcome a clear lane to the basket if Harden is constantly double-teamed.
This situation played out on Friday. With the Rockets down one with the ball, two defenders ran at Harden and allowed Westbrook an open look. He missed, and the Rockets dropped their second straight game:
Teams won’t stop being aggressive against Harden unless Westbrook or other members of the supporting cast burn the opponent for leaving them open. Until then, Harden will have to put up with some stingy defenses.
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