James Harden Feasts Off OKC Thunder’s ‘Trash’ Pick-and-Roll Defense in Game 1

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty ImagesMaurice BobbFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2017

HOUSTON — This was ostensible to be James Harden vs. Russell Westbrook. And it’s ostensible to be close.

But a pivotal matchup in a NBA playoffs’ many constrained first-round array competence not be luminary A vs. luminary B. Rather, it’s James Harden vs. a Oklahoma City Thunder frontcourt. And Thunder large male Steven Adams knows who came adult brief in Game 1.

Adams and his associate giants were forced to switch onto Harden via a Houston Rockets‘ unilateral 118-87 win Sunday night in a playoff opener.

“The second half came down to mentally locking down a reads,” Adams said. “The bigs, generally me, played rabble on a reads, and a pick-and-rolls were comprehensive garbage. We have to get behind to a sketch house and kind of demeanour during how we can give a improved bid in Game 2.”

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Harden, who finished with a game-high 37 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds, binds all a cards vs. a Thunder fringe scheme. His ability to take advantage of a mismatches on defensive switches helped a Rockets find another trail to victory, finishing with a points-in-the-paint advantage of 62-38.

“All a points in a paint came from a pick-and-roll coverages,” Adams said. “Again, that was a bigs being trash.”

Harden’s second half should be a Rockets’ operative plans relocating forward. During a final 24 minutes, he finished 3-of-5 from deep, shot 8-of-8 from a free-throw line and took Enes Kanter on giveaway tours of Toyota Center.

“As a indicate guard, we have to try to find ways to separate a defense,” Harden said. “They’re switching with a large and they were holding a three-pointers away, so we only attempted to get to a basket. we consider we missed my initial 6 or 7 shots from a perimeter, and we knew that wasn’t going to go on for long, though we only continued to stay with it and continued to be aggressive. we done some shots, though we only try to make a right play. Every diversion that’s my mindset. we try to get these guys shots, creation certain everybody is in a good rhythm.”

The Rockets are already meditative about their subsequent chess move. Head manager Mike D’Antoni has a opposite prepared for Game 2.

“If they stay on a shooters, afterwards we’ll take layups,” D’Antoni said. “If they stagger subsequent game, afterwards we will take threes. Then if we review a diversion right, we have to collect one or a other.

“We speak about it all year how intelligent he is and how he sum it out and it only takes him a small bit to know that he can get to a rim. And they were switching all and he was only exploiting what was there. That’s what he does. If he’s not a best, we don’t know.”

This is all good news for Houston’s frontcourt. When Thunder bigs focus on a Rockets’ three-point shooters, Clint Capela gets a wide-open line to abuse. “When they do that, we am ready,” pronounced Capela. “I have my mind set on being ready, and we try to get to a corner and move some energy, and we was means to do that tonight.”

Outside of sharpened a horrible 28.9 percent from a margin in a second half, things unequivocally started to tumble detached for OKC after Adams set a collect that intended Patrick Beverley. The Thunder incited a round over 9 times in a third and let a Rockets go on a 54-28 run a rest of a way.

One of a keys to Houston’s late-game subjection was a inconsistency in second-chance points. The Rockets outscored OKC 31-4.

“It only comes down to hard-nosed bid and creation mixed efforts,” Adams said. “Help side we help, and afterwards we have to scurry behind and box out and make certain we don’t remove sight. we don’t know what they had during a half, though it was something stupid. If we cut some of those down, we would have been in a flattering good spot.”

Houston also distant itself from OKC on a boards. Beverley pulled down 10 rebounds to go along with his playoff career-high 21 points, and Ryan Anderson grabbed a playoff career-high 12 rebounds, assisting a Rockets outrebound a Thunder 56-41. Houston’s resilient corner was considerable deliberation OKC led a NBA in sum resilient commission in a unchanging deteriorate during 53.4.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

“They didn’t quite fire a round a approach they wanted in a initial half, though they stranded with it, and this is a playoffs and that’s what it’s all about,” Andre Roberson said. “Who is going to be a group that wants it more? Tonight they wanted it more. We have to go behind to a sketch house and see what we did wrong and see what we can do improved and go from there.”

Should a Thunder continue to switch their bigs on a Rockets guards as partial of their three-point defense, Harden will be prepared to make a required adjustments. It’s a reason D’Antoni devoted him with floor-spacing option in a initial place. In Houston’s widespread building offense, Harden has grant blanche, room to create, to paint a ideal scoring picture.

“We’ve had countless games when we’re not sharpened a round well,” Harden said. “We have to find opposite ways to win. We kept priesthood to them, we’re not going to fire a round good all a time, so we got to find other ways to win. We only got to figure it out. Tonight was a game, tonight we played defensively unequivocally well. We didn’t fire a round well, though we got to a paint and we finished. So subsequent game, we competence fire a round better, who knows? As prolonged as we hang a shawl on invulnerability and we close in and we know a diversion plan.”


All quotes performed firsthand unless differently noted. All stats accurate as of Apr 17 and pleasantness of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com.

Maurice Bobb covers a NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ReeseReport.

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