Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
James Harden‘s offense has been one of the few bright spots for the Houston Rockets in their Western Conference second-round series with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Well, at least it was until Thursday night.
Game 4 against the Lakers saw the Rockets guard completely lose his touch while going 2-of-11 from the field. It’s hard to look at Harden’s 21 points and 10 assists on Thursday as anything but a disappointment after he averaged 32.0 points while shooting 52.7 percent from the field and 47.8 percent on threes over the previous three games.
That’s especially true since the Lakers grabbed a 3-1 series lead with the 110-100 victory.
Yet the night ended with L.A. star LeBron James lobbing multiple compliments Harden’s way, showing just how important the guard is on the floor and how necessary it is to shut him down.
“[Harden] is probably one of the best offensive players we’ve ever seen in this league,” James told reporters. “So we’re just trying to limit anything we can from him. He gets to the paint with his runners, with his floaters. Obviously he has the step-back, he has the threes in transition, he has his catch-and-shoot threes when he’s off the ball. And like I said, he’s very tricky with his moves to get to the free-throw line.
It’s been a trying postseason for Harden.
During a 4-3 series victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round, Harden shot better than 48 percent from the field in just three contests and scored 38 points in a Game 3 overtime loss. He’s yet to match that total.
Thursday marked the fourth game this postseason Harden has connected on fewer than ten field goals.
Despite that, the Lakers know the next hot streak is always one bucket away for a guard who is never afraid to shoot. Los Angeles won’t be taking Harden lightly, even with a 3-1 lead.
“We’re just trying to take away some things,” James said. “We can’t take away everything because that’s how great he is offensively.”