WCF: Rockets vs Warriors – More than Harden to blame for thrilling last play of Game 2

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James Harden, is taking a beating today. Whether, it be by the national media or just social media the backlash has been pretty hard on Harden. The beating isn’t quite to the level of what Lebron James would be receiving right now, but it’s close. Some of it is justified. Some of it isn’t.

When, you examine the final play of Game 2’s 99-98 Warriors victory over the Rockets, there are basically four perspectives that come into play. The first perspective is from Kevin McHale’s point of view.

Since, he is the head coach and he could have called a timeout, you naturally have to include his view of things. But, we’re going to exclude his view of things, because he was on the money in NOT calling a t.o. No way you stop the runner-up MVP, who has the ball, from running the floor and trying to make a play in that situation. Especially, when the alternative is trying to score against the NBA’s best defense when they’re set. So, with McHale doing the right thing, that leaves us with three perspectives that mattered.

Harden’s Perspective

The most important perspective for this play obviously comes from The Beard, since had the ball. Harden, does a good job getting the ball up the floor very quickly, but he became a bit indecisive. His first choice was the step-back jumper with Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson right in his grille. Looking at it now, this was probably his way to handle the play. It’s unclear if Harden either thought it was too quick of a shot, where even if he scored the Warriors would have plenty of time make a shot of their own, or if he thought he or another Rocket could get a get closer shot? What’s also unclear is did Harden know that it was Dwight Howard trailing the play? Was Harden just trying to get the ball out of his hands because of the double team, or did he think the guy trailing the play would be able to take the final shot? Whatever the case, Harden’s indecisiveness was a big factor.

Howard’s Perspective

As Howard trailed this play, did he have any clue he would get his hands on the ball. He sure acted like he didn’t know. Which is understandable. If Harden gets his shot, there would be no reason for Dwight to touch the ball unless it was to grab a rebound. However, the point that’s been missed in the aftermath of all this is Howard a clear lane to the hoop, or at least to the paint. Sure, it’s not really I’m Howard’s repertoire to make a play like that. But, we’ve seen him handle the ball pretty well at times. With Dwight’s length, he’s probably in the lane in two strides from where he caught the ball. In comparison, think if that was Marc Gasol in that same instance. Gasol, not only could have made the two or three dribbles to get in the lane. He also, could have made that shot easily from 10 – 15 feet. Dwight, simply could not. Or, is it simply he did not?

Plus, while everyone piles on Harden and McHale for not calling a timeout, it was Howard who had the best opportunity to call timeout himself. Why pass the ball back to Harden when you knew he was double-teamed and your team was up against the clock? Was he afraid to make a play for the rim because he couldn’t get there, or was it because he thought he would get fouled? Whatever the case, Dwight Howard is just as much to blame as anyone else.

Warriors Defensive Perspective

That leaves us with our third and final perspective. The defense. The Warriors D, namely Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green did exactly what they had to do to make sure the Rockets didn’t win that game. Sometimes, it gets lost in the shuffle just how well a play was defended. It’s pretty much always the player missed the shot. Very rarely is it just good defense. In this case, it was Harden’s indecisiveness. But, why was he indecisive?

It was the quick thinking of Curry and Thompson to first stop the ball. Then, it was the quick reaction of Green to shut off the passing lane to
a streaking Terrence Jones that would have had a dunk. There was no Trevor Ariza or Jason Terry to get the ball to. They were covered. The only person left open was Howard. Anyone else catches the pass from Harden, it’s a wide open three or long two. Everyone on the floor was capable of making that shot except Dwight Howard. Great defense by Golden State. Too bad it’s been overlooked the way it has by some.

It was no doubt a crushing defeat for the Rockets, who have exceeded the expectations of some by just hanging in the first two games and not getting blown out. It’s going to be very difficult for the Rockets to win this series, but they are very capable of winning both games in Houston. If that happens, and Curry and Harden continue dueling it out the way that they have, this could turn out be a truly classic Western Conference Finals.

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