If anyone needed more proof that the Houston Rockets are playing the wrong kind of basketball to succeed or even stand a chance in the NBA playoffs, came Game 1 of their series vs the Thunder, and the continuing approval from Kevin McHale for James Harden to do whatever he wants on the court while forgetting about Jeremy Lin or any other of his teammates is making this look like a clean, cold, painful sweep in the making.
Harden did look like the only player functioning offensively, finishing with 20 points in his 34 minutes, compared to the 4 Jeremy Lin had in a similar stretch. But Harden went 6-19 from the field, putting his head down and trying to make everything happen only by his doing. He made 2-of-15 field goal attempts in half-court sets and 4-4 in transitions. He made 1-of-8 shots in isolation, which is his specialty, making it 20% in isolation plays in the three losses to the Thunder this season, the best team in the NBA when it comes to stopping isolation plays.
More Harden? A drive is a touch in a half court possession that starts at least 20 feet away from the basket and ends within 10 feet of the basket. How well did Harden do on those? 8 points on 11 drives and failing to set up his teammates for any made baskets. Never once looking up, never once looking sideways, Harden decided that winning this game on his own, showing the Oklahoma City crowd they should be missing him, is what he’ll do, and failed miserably.
The depth and severity of the problem can be seen by his comments and worse, Kevin McHale, who clearly seems to be out of touch of what’s really good for this team, instead simply seeing the number #13 and a bunch of helpers who should be doing everything they can in order to make this selfish style work. No wonder the Rockets lost by 29 points.
First, the coach – James, on this team, has to shoulder a ton of responsibilities for us and he’s been great all year long. He’s had an all-pro type of year. He’ll play better, just like everybody. We ask him to do an awful lot for us; handle the ball, score the ball, pass the ball, make plays. I think that he had it going there for a little bit, but it wasn’t James. It was us in general as a team. We never really caught a flow at all tonight.
This just tells you it isn’t going to change. McHale doesn’t trust or doesn’t want to trust others on his team, feeling it was Harden alone that got the Rockets into the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. He may be right – the Rockets are there mainly because of the talented scorer, but he couldn’t have done it on his own.
Harden himself shows just how delusional the situation is – We didn’t have a rhythm as a team. I felt like it was basically one on five every time. Believe it or not, I think this was good for us,” Harden said. “Losing like this was definitely good for us. Now we know how to play.
Maybe the ability of Patrick Beverly (on a night like this, 11 points and 4 assists while losing by 18 during his time on the floor) is something to grasp on, which might mean less minutes for Lin in game 2. But the Rockets won’t be getting any closer to the much better Thunder if this mockery of an offensive scheme, not to mention the helplessness on defense, continues. Harden may be the talent and star power of this franchise, but he’s not the answer to everything.