James Harden’s 2017 season ended when the Spurs knocked the Rockets out of the playoffs. After an impressive Game One from the high-scoring Harden, Houston was disappointed to see the series go downhill. In the last game, Harden barely scored in the double digits. Many blamed the discrepancy in performance from the first game to the last, on fatigue. But it was more than that. San Antonio had figured out how to guard Harden effectively and disrupt his game.
Harden’s New Game
The Spurs were able to shut Harden down because they stopped switching off the pick and roll and they shut down the restricted area. This means that Harden had a tougher time shooting open threes, and he had a more obstructed path to the basket.
So Harden responded by figuring out how he could create his own three-point shots and boosting his midrange game. If you’ve watched Harden play, then you know his signature is the step-back three. He’s perfected this move in the past two seasons. In terms of a midrange game (shooting from the area in between the three-point line and the paint) Harden opts for the highest percentage shot he can take: the floater. This isn’t a high percentage shot for everyone, as it’s not easy to perfect. But it’s easy to see that Harden has mastered the floater.
Missed the Sweep
If you’ve watched any of the series against the Jazz, then you know that Harden is the Rockets’ main weapon. And he’s accomplished much of his scoring with step-back threes and floaters.
The Rockets may have fallen apart in the fourth quarter of game four on Monday, but Harden and Co are unlikely to let another one fall to the Jazz.