The James Harden blaming experience is fun to go through, but the Houston Rockets season not picking up isn’t always his fault.
Harden scored 29 points in the loss 116-105 to the Detroit Pistons. He scored 16 of his points in the fourth quarter, but it felt pretty much alone. The Rockets’ offense might be based on Harden scoring and a little too much so, but the general idea is shooting 3’s and layups. They simply didn’t make the shots. Harden made 6-of-15 but with two 3-pointers, and got to the line enough times to make his antics and turnovers worth the while.
The problem was Trevor Ariza, for example, shooting just 1-of-9 from the field. Harden finished with 7 assists and did share the ball, but when open shots don’t drop, it won’t matter that he tries to change his ways (and we need to see him doing it on a regular basis to make up our minds).
Andre Drummond destroying anyone not named Dwight Howard on the boards was another problem. The Rockets were +10 with Howard on the floor, but lost by 21 points during his 17 minutes of rest. Drummond finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds, but actually missed 14 (!!!) times from the line, which would have made the game a lot easier for the Pistons.
Defense. While Harden gets the brunt of the blame for this, the defense isn’t based on him or should crumble just because he sucks at it. Plenty of teams have done very well despite having one Achilles heel to cover for. But the gist of it is that through the last few years, with or without Howard, the Rockets never created a defensive identity, a consistent and successful one. Losing Josh Smith is still something they haven’t recovered from, even if he isn’t doing well with the Clippers. Daryl Morey might think he’s a genius, but it seems that basing his project on Harden and the approach of 3’s, layups and let the coach worry about the rest isn’t going to get the Rockets to where they want to be.