The Houston Rockets made the decision to make James Harden their full-time point guard, and in his first regular season game, his performance was astonishing.
Harden has the talent to do whatever he wants on the basketball court; he’s always been a ball dominant guard who ran a decent amount of Houston’s offense. Now, he just makes conscience decisions to divert to the open man.
The Beard asserted himself every way possible and tallied a remarkable 34 points, 17 rebounds, and eight assists with a tremendous usage rate of 38 percent. Whenever he wanted, Harden could get into the teeth of the Laker defense and do something productive, and he was even harder to contain out of the pick-and-roll.
— TBN (@TBNMedia) October 27, 2016
His downside, as expected, was defense and Harden nearly fouled out of the season opener; he also turned the ball over seven times, but a 2.4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio is loads higher than what it typically is.
Houston’s first experiment didn’t end like they had hoped, and their defense was the root. The young Los Angeles Lakers spoiled their opening night, handing the Rockets a 120-114 loss. Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell played very well and scored 25 and 20, respectively. Julius Randle was the third guy who impressed, and he delivered an interesting all-around performance with 18 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.
Despite an expected lack of defense, there wasn’t much help around Harden offensively. Clint Capela (16), Ryan Anderson (14), and Eric Gordon (19) had solid outings, but the latter two shot just 4/15 from three and that’s the reason they were signed in the first place.
Harden also shot himself in the foot by clanking six of his seven attempts from outside, but he had the awareness to attack the basket and knocked down 15 of his 16 shots from the charity stripe.
The Rockets didn’t fall in love with the three, but only sunk seven of their 29 attempts. It was clear the outside shot wasn’t falling, but there was a lack of aggression from the rest of the offense. Houston made 19 free throws, and that’s including Harden’s 15.
As the year goes on, Harden will continue to put up remarkable numbers, but we’ll have to wait and see how long he can sustain this for. Moreover, if he does keep up this volume, how much more a hit will the Rockets’ defense take?
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