NBA teams have done excruciating work on game planning to defend Houston Rockets guard James Harden. Why has it been difficult? Here’s why it’s an enigma.
The Houston Rockets will partake in the first round of the NBA playoffs against the Utah Jazz tonight, kicking off what will likely be an extremely exciting postseason for our hometown team. Although the team could’ve tilted their fate in better favor if they would’ve beaten the Oklahoma City Thunder last week, the current situation they’re in is still a winning yet challenging one.
The Jazz were the 2nd-most defensively efficient in the league for a reason allowing a paltry 103.2 points per 100 possessions. They haven’t missed a beat on defense year-over-year, having held the No. 2 spot in 2017-18 but allowing 101.6 points per 100, which was 2.4 points fewer than this season.
Nonetheless, they’re going to a bear to deal with offensively and it will interesting to see what type of strategy Quin Snyder will employ to attempt to shut the Houston Rockets down. I fully expect that there will be dry spells in shooting by the Rox; but ultimately, this team has the goods to prevail to the next round.
I’m positive that Snyder has taken a considerable amount of time trying to figure out how to stymie James Harden as he’s truly the engine that makes this team go. Although this team has proven it could have some marked success without his presence, there’s no way this franchise can win a championship without him.
And that’s a fact, Jack.
ESPN’s Tim MacMahon — who always seems to have an ear to the ground in the Houston Rockets happenings — penned this morning about the notion on how the Milwaukee Bucks may have figured out the blueprint to shutting down Harden which was prevalent when they last met March 26.
What makes Harden so unique to today’s game is that he’s left-handed, forcing defenders to be put in awkward situations when trying to stop him. But he can be just as effective with his right so I’d honestly put him in the ambidextrous category.
Since going to his left is a natural move for him, defenders will try to force him to his right but he’s so quick he can change course and beat them before their eyes blink with one of his deadly step-back jumpers.
What the Bucks’ Eric Bledsoe did was not only make Harden go to his right but straddle his left hip. If he’d try to drive, Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo would be waiting in the wings to shut down any type of progress toward the basket. If Bledsoe got beat, there were occasions where he’d block any time of lay-in attempts from behind.
The strategy essentially worked as Harden was held to 9-for-26 shooting from the field while
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going 1-for-9 from behind-the-arc along with four turnovers. Despite his struggles, being the points-creator that he is, he still managed to put 23 points in his stat column.
MacMahon also writes that his performance against the Bucks was his 5th-worst of the season based off the differences in his shooting percentage and quality of shot.
Can this be a one-off or it may be something that teams could be looking into to put a stop to the Beard’s menacing progress?
I think it was just a situation that was synonymous of Harden having a bad shooting night — along with the rest of the team — and the Bucks’ being able to put the ball into the hoop effectively.
The Bucks shot 44.7 percent from the field and 41.2 percent from three and I could attest this to something that wouldn’t happen on a regular basis if the Houston Rockets faced them on a regular basis as if they were in the Western Conference.
But asking the Jazz — or any other team for that matter — to put the brakes on what Harden has been doing in his MVP-esque season will be a tall order to handle.
When things commence tonight, I implore you to take a look closely at the techniques that the Jazz will employ on Harden. Will it be any different? Will they have success?
We’re about to find out.
The Rockets will showdown with the Jazz tonight at Toyota Center and tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. CDT. The game will be televised on AT&T Sportsnet — Southwest/TNT and broadcast on KTRH 740 AM as well as La Ranchera 850 AM in Spanish.