The Houston Rockets came back to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder and take a commanding 3-1 series lead on Sunday despite a rough night from James Harden. It will be difficult for Houston to continue winning if Harden shoots 31 percent from the floor, so the MVP candidate’s sore ankle will be something to keep an eye on.
After Houston’s 113-106 victory in Game 4, Harden told ESPN’s Lisa Salters that he has been dealing with an ankle injury he suffered during Game 3. He scored just 16 points Sunday on 5-of-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 from 3-point range.
“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” told reporters when asked about his health, according to Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”
Harden grabbed seven rebounds and dished out eight assists in Game 4, so it’s not as if he was rendered useless. Still, he looked nowhere near the player who averaged 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game during the regular season. His point totals in the first three games of the Western Conference quarterfinals were 37, 35 and 44.
As Watkins notes, Harden did not have a noticeable limp but also was not attacking the rim like he typically does. Should Harden struggle again in Game 5, people are going to start believing Bay Area rapper Lil B was actually successful in cursing him again.
Houston will look to finish off the Thunder in Game 5 Tuesday night.