Houston Rockets: James Harden has to be shrewd in critical moments

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 05: James Harden
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 05: James Harden /

The Houston Rockets have dropped their 4th straight and this one has stung the most because it was a game they easily had in hand.  But lapses and some key mistakes by James Harden caused this game to get out of hand.  In order to win games, he must stop these habits.

The Houston Rockets, who once was the team that was talked about nightly after each scorching win during their streak, is now the laughingstock once again because of their failure to close games when the moments are critical.

The ending to tonight’s game against the Boston Celtics will be talked about for quite some time — especially through the season — in regard to how easily they let something good slip right through their fingers.  The Houston Rockets had led by as much 26 points with 8:42 left in the 1st half to only have that lead gobbled away in the 2nd half with the team relinquishing their lead in the final moments of this game.

The shooters got cold, the defense waned and the team apparently did not take one of the best teams in the league all that seriously.  Teams aren’t going to roll over and succumb, they’re going to fight all the way until the end.  And this is even more so with a team coach by Brad Stevens.

Should we be surprised this?  No.  The reason I say this is because we’re missing Chris Paul‘s leadership out on the floor,  a guy that would’ve been able to not only facilitate/create his own shot but to get in his teammates faces if things were going awry.  As much respect I give to James Harden, that’s something that’s not his specialty.  He does it but it’s not all that effective.

Most of all, CP3 would’ve been in Harden’s face to prevent him from making the silly mistakes that occurred down the stretch.  Not one but two fouls were called in the final seconds because he and Marcus Smart were tossing and tangling with each other in the paint.

And yes, there certainly could be a case made that Harden did push off on both instances but Smart sold his flops excellently just as Juwan Evans did in last Friday’s home game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Teams are picking up on this blueprint — if you aggravate Harden enough, he’ll be forced to make a mistake which could certainly give his match up the upper hand.

It’s completely beyond me that the NBA allows this ticky-tack crap to fly by.  In the NBA of yesteryear, what transpired between Harden and Smart would’ve been the equivalent of a hug.

Players shoved, jawed, hand-checked and got in each other’s faces if they didn’t like their opponent.  I absolutely love the game but there times were I miss that element.  It’s hard to

More from House of Houston

institute smash-mouth basketball with all of the rules changes that favor guards like Stephen Curry, who wouldn’t have lasted five minutes in the NBA of back in the day.

All in all, veteran referee Tony Brothers should’ve let that go but Harden as well as the rest of the Houston Rockets shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place.  Plus, if you’re going to give Brothers an opportunity to make game-changing call, chances are that he’s going to go against the Rockets.

So there’s Al Horford, shoveling his way through the paint to jump hook the ball in with 3.7 seconds left.  99-98. GAME. SET. MATCH.

But because these are rules that we have to live with, Harden has to be smarter in these situations.  I appreciate all he does for the team but he quickly eroded away all the effort he made to keep the team ahead by making those mistakes.  You just don’t want to be in situation where you’re hindering your team more in critical moments more often than not.

Next: Why the Rockets are still considered the underdogs to win it all

But I think part of this will be resolved when CP3 returns but it’s certainly something he has to look himself in the mirror to tell his reflection that he’s gotta stop doing this.

The Rockets are now set to take on the 2nd game of a back-to-back roadie against the Washington Wizards Friday night.  The tip-off is set for 6 p.m. CST.  See you then.

Go Rockets.