Russell Westbrook has yet to really get going in the Western Conference Semifinals, and James Harden is eager to help him fix that.
Harden revealed Monday that he and Westbrook got together privately after the Houston Rockets’ Game 2 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The goal was to find ways that they could both improve going forward.
Harden has been very good, shooting 56.3 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range through the first two games. Westbrook has not. He’s been held to 17 points per game on 35.9 percent shooting. He’s just 2-of-12 from three so far, and has 12 turnovers to 14 field goals.
Westbrook has put up some poor performances since returning from a quad injury. The Lakers are content to let him shoot. The guard has to be smarter than that, and perhaps defer to Harden as long as the hot hand is elsewhere.
The Houston Rockets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 112-97 in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals series on Friday night, and James Harden knows what keyed the win.
Harden was the high-scorer in the game with 36 points, but that wasn’t his focus afterwards. Instead, he said it was on the defensive side of the floor where Houston will need to win.
“Our defense. That’s what’s going to get us where we want to go. I keep preaching it, but defensively, if we’re engaged … this is the best team in the West. If we can hold them under 100 points defensively, we got something. Just keep that same mindset,” Harden said in his postgame interview.
The Rockets held the Lakers to 42.2 percent shooting. The Lakers’ 3-point shooting really hurt them once again, as they were just 11/38 from beyond the arc.
The Rockets now have a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-7 series. The Lakers fell behind 1-0 against Portland in the first round before winning the series in five games. By no means should Houston get ahead of itself. But if they can keep the Lakers under 100 points as Harden said, you have to like their chances.
James Harden didn’t play his best offensive game in the Houston Rockets’ 104-102 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 7 of his team’s Western Conference first-round series on Wednesday night, but he came up with the plays when they were needed. Harden knew that immediately.
The Rockets star was just 4/15 for 17 points in the win, but he had a key block in the final seconds to help his team get the win.
“Offensively I played like s—“, Harden acknowledged in his postgame interview. “Excuse my language.”
“I couldn’t make a shot. Turning the ball over. Just doing everything that’s not supposed to happen, but I kept sticking with it. My teammates gave me confidence throughout the course of games. And defensively I tried to make a play,” Harden said.
Harden was off with the long ball and shot just 1/9 on threes, but he had two steals and three blocks.
P.J. Tucker had four steals and Robert Covington had three steals and three blocks in the win.
Here is an unedited video of Harden’s interview:
James Harden knows where his Houston Rockets went wrong in their 104-100 Game 6 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs on Monday night in Orlando, Fla.
The Rockets turned the ball over 22 times in the loss, compared to 19 for OKC. Russell Westbrook, who was playing in just his second playoff game since returning from a quad injury, turned the ball over seven times. Two of his turnovers came in the final two minutes of the game, taking away valuable chances for the Rockets.
“A lot of careless turnovers. Including myself. Just too many turnovers, especially in a playoff game — a closeout game — just gave them too many opportunities,” Harden said after the game.
“I think defensively we did a pretty good job. We just shot ourselves in the foot by turning the ball over and giving us less opportunities to score.”
Westbrook had an ugly turnover with his team down 102-100 and under 10 seconds left in the game that was hard to ignore.
Westbrook needs to be better and everyone seems to recognize that. Harden turned the ball over five times in the loss. And they got shown up by Chris Paul.
Game 7 between the teams will be on Wednesday.
James Harden took out some frustration after his Houston Rockets’ loss on Monday on a hand sanitizer dispenser.
The Rockets lost a tight contest against Oklahoma City 117-114 to even the first-round playoff series between the teams at 2-2. Upon exiting the court in Orlando, Fla., Harden pushed over a hand sanitizer dispenser.
Harden was the high scorer in the game with 32 points, eight rebounds and 15 assists, but he was unable to pull his team to victory.
After going up 2-0 in the series, the Rockets have now lost two games in a row to the Thunder. Game 5 between the teams will be on Wednesday. You know Harden has extra motivation to beat Chris Paul’s team, regardless of what he says.
There was significant tension between James Harden and Chris Paul toward the end of their time in Houston together, and it sounds like the pair won’t be in a rush to renew acquaintances personally when they meet in the Western Conference playoffs.
In an interview with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Paul said that he and Harden aren’t “enemies,” but the pair don’t communicate and don’t have any real relationship after spending two seasons together in Houston.
“We don’t talk, communicate or anything,” Paul said.
Paul is right that ex-teammates don’t need to be best friends, but he’s pretty honest about where things stand with Harden. The two may not be enemies, but they’re certainly not friends, and Harden’s words on the relationship back that up.
Harden and Paul clashed, particularly at the end of their time together last season. It adds an interesting subplot to the Rockets-Thunder series, but it ultimately sounds like the two star guards will be respectful but indifferent toward each other.
Chris Paul and James Harden had an imperfect partnership in Houston, but there does not appear to be any lingering bad blood now that the two are set to meet in the playoffs on opposite sides.
Addressing reporters on Monday ahead of the Rockets’ first-round series against Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder, Harden said that he was not taking the matchup against his former co-star personally.
“I’m trying to win games and a playoff series,” said Harden, per Salman Ali of ESPN 97.5 in Houston.
Harden and Paul were teammates for the previous two seasons in Houston. While the on-court product worked out better than many critics anticipated and they very nearly upset the Kevin Durant-era Golden State Warriors in the 2018 playoffs, the two stars did not always get along too well.
Paul was dealt to the Thunder last summer for Harden’s new running mate, Russell Westbrook, who will miss the start of the series with a quad injury. While this is not the first time Paul and Harden have met in the postseason (Paul’s LA Clippers played Harden’s Rockets back in 2015), plenty of eyes will still be on the two ex-teammates throughout the first-round matchup.
The rivalry between James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo continues.
Harden’s Houston Rockets topped Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks 120-116 on Sunday in Orlando. Harden scored just 24 points on 5-for-14 shooting but had six steals in his team’s win. Giannis was a statistical monster in the loss, putting up 36 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists.
Harden was asked after the game about the difficulty in defending Antetokounmpo and had no interest in answering. Instead, he said “next question”.
So why wouldn’t Harden want to talk about how tough it is to defend Giannis? Probably because he doesn’t want to give the slightest bit of credit to the Bucks star.
Harden has been upset over Giannis winning NBA MVP over him last year. Giannis has since taken a shot at Harden, and then there was some beef between them during the All-Star Game earlier this year.
Expect this sort of thing to continue between them. Come to think of it, the Bucks and Rockets meeting in the NBA Finals would be fun to watch.
James Harden’s secret to conditioning in the NBA Bubble in Orlando has been revealed.
Harden played 43 minutes in the Houston Rockets’ 153-149 overtime win over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night. His 49 points led all scorers and helped Houston get the victory. His ability to play so well and for so long in the first game back after a layoff of four months was the topic of conversation after the game.
“I was bragging on your conditioning, how you’ve been running the steps up-and-down at the hotel,” ESPN’s Rachel Nichols said in a postgame interview with Harden.
“You can’t be telling everyone my secrets!” Harden joked in response. “I feel good … overtime game for the first game in a long time, I think my body help up really well.”
So, Harden has been working on his conditioning by running hotel stairs in at Disney World in Orlando. Those are generally grueling, so it makes sense that it might help.
Between him and Jimmy Butler, we’re seeing guys do whatever they have to in order to keep in shape in the bubble.
James Harden’s Houston Rockets enter the NBA’s resumed season in Orlando tied for fifth in the Western Conference with the Oklahoma City Thunder at 40-24. They are a game behind the fourth spot and 2.5 games behind the third spot.
Ordinarily, you would figure they would be motivated to move up in the standings in order to get home court for important playoff series. But that is not Harden’s concern. He says home-court advantage does not exist in the NBA’s Bubble situation.
“Home-court advantage? There’s no home-court advantage,” Harden said on Thursday, via Alykhan Bijani. “We don’t have any fans…It don’t matter if you’re fourth, fifth or sixth seed. For us, it’s about getting in shape and making sure our offense and defense is crispy and we’re all on the same page. We’ll play anybody.”
The comfort of playing at home, staying at one’s home, and having the fan support are some of the factors that make playing at home an advantage. There is also the notion that referees can be influenced by a crowd. Those factors disappear in Orlando, where there will not be a crowd. That means teams that are already assured of a playoff appearance might not be as motivated to fight for a high seed as they usually would be. But all teams better be prepared to win when the playoffs do come around. Harden believes his Rockets will be, and he has a lot to prove.