Houston Rockets: How the team keeps rolling despite Harden’s absence

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 25: NBA player James Harden attends during week one of the BIG3 three on three basketball league at Barclays Center on June 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 25: NBA player James Harden attends during week one of the BIG3 three on three basketball league at Barclays Center on June 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

There are few teams who would be fine with losing a MVP candidate to an injury. The Houston Rockets are one of those teams. With only two losses in the six games since James Harden’s injury, the rest of the team has proved capable of competing even with their leader on the sidelines.

Here’s how the Houston Rockets have been rolling in the Beard’s absence:

The Houston Rockets have been holding up pretty well since James Harden suffered a Grade 2 hamstring strain after putting up 40 points against the Los Angeles Lakers. The league’s leading scorer has been allowed to take his time and recover fully as the team has kept the pace since losing their star point guard.

Here are a few reason as to why the injury has not impacted the team’s performance in any significant way.

Offense remains rambunctious

The Houston Rockets have been averaging 115 points per game this season, second to only the Golden State Warriors. Most would have assumed that losing the guy leading the league in scoring and second in assists would have affected the team’s scoring output. While there has been a minor drop-off in points per game, the 113.3 points the team has been averaging since Harden’s absence would still rank second in the league above the Toronto Raptors 112.1 average.

With this type of offensive production, it would be hard to notice that Harden has been missing as multiple players have stepped up in his absence. Eric Gordon has picked up his scoring from 19.7 points per game for the season to 21.6 points per game in Harden’s absence.

Clint Capela has also played great in this period along with Gerald Green. The offensive system installed by Mike D’Antoni has been keeping the team free-flowing despite being without their best offensive weapon.

This run without Harden should overall be beneficial to the team as it should give the team confidence and improve the cohesiveness of the group.

Chris Paul flourishing as offensive focal point

Chris Paul likes to run an offense, no surprise there. The nine-time All-Star has been playing exceptionally well as the primary ball handler.

Aside from a pedestrian eight points in the first game without Harden, Paul has been on fire. In the last five games, Paul is averaging 26 points and 9.6 assists per game. Not only that, he is also averaging 7.4 rebounds while shooting 47 percent from the field.

This is exactly why Paul came to the Houston Rockets, to be there whenever Harden needs rest or is out injured. While the idea is to have them both on the court, this time as the leader should consolidate Paul’s integration to the team and help him better adjust himself to his teammates.

Strength of schedule

The team has been playing well, but let’s take into account the opponents faced. Aside from the

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Golden State Warriors, the teams played have a combined record of 87-123.  This is by no means diminishes the resilience showed but it does put things into perspective.

The Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns may one day be good teams, but right now both are terrible. The Rockets have been fortunate to have been playing a more than friendly schedule. With games against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Warriors approaching, the Rockets will be tested much more than they have been recently.

Next: What life will be like without James Harden

Harden’s injury is an unfortunate event that caught everyone by surprise. One of the less talked about traits in Harden’s game is his durability. With only two games missed since the 2014-15 season and never missing more than nine games in a season, this injury was as rare as a bad game from the Beard.

The good thing about his time out is the opportunity to showcase the rest of the team. So far, the team has responded well, and more than likely this period will make this team more resilient while also less reliant on the perennial MVP candidate.