James Harden Can Pass the Ball (Just Make Sure You Catch in which)

“James is actually so Great at delivering the ball,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said.

His teammates just have to be ready to catch in which, which — at This particular late stage of the season — they usually are. Consider the first three possessions of the Rockets’ 115-111 victory in Game 2 on Wednesday night. Possession No. 1: Harden shovels a two-handed pass to Clint Capela, who finds Ryan Anderson for an open look through the 3-point line. Possession No. 2: Harden slings a one-handed pass to Trevor Ariza, who drives for a layup. Possession No. 3: Harden dribbles to draw defenders before kicking to Ariza at the 3-point line.

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Harden, far left, passed as two Thunder players tried to guard him during Game 1 of their first-round playoff series on Sunday.

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Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Anderson in addition to Ariza misfired on their 3-point attempts, nevertheless Harden was clearly working to engage his teammates. Anderson wound up struggling within the win, shooting 1 of 8 through the field. He missed all seven of his 3-point attempts. nevertheless Harden never abandoned him. In fact, he appeared determined to help lift Anderson out of his malaise.

“He throws in which anywhere in addition to everywhere,” the Rockets’ Eric Gordon said. “His thing is actually, he continues to do in which throughout the game, which a lot of players don’t do.”

After averaging 7.5 assists a game last season, Harden led the league by averaging 11.2 assists a game This particular season. A big chunk of the credit ought to go to D’Antoni, whose spread-the-floor offense has shaped the Rockets into a title contender in his first season here. He also shifted Harden, a shooting guard in prior seasons, to point guard. The move ensured in which Harden had the ball in his hands as often as possible. nevertheless by initiating the offense, Harden also found in which he was able to get his teammates more involved.

There are occasions when Harden tries, perhaps, to do too much. He set one particular-season N.B.A. record by committing 464 turnovers. (Westbrook finished with 438, which left him second on the list of single-season leaders, according to Basketball Reference.) nevertheless D’Antoni did not mind at all. He compared turnovers to missed shots: is actually there definitely in which much difference?

“He’s not meaning to do in which,” D’Antoni said. “He’s trying to make 15 assists. in addition to you know what? I can coach him to mediocrity. I can tell him: ‘You know what, James? Don’t do all in which. Just pass the ball over here in addition to don’t do anything tricky.’ You can’t do in which. You try to coach them to be great in addition to let him be great, in addition to he is actually great. If there are a few turnovers, there are a few turnovers.”

The team’s confidence grew out of in which balance over the course of the season, in addition to the Rockets are thriving through the first two games of the playoffs.

“I told the guys, ‘Just stay with in which,’ ” Harden said. “If you got a shot, shoot in which. in addition to if you have an opportunity to drive, take those opportunities.”

On Wednesday, Harden finished with 35 points in addition to 8 assists. He manufactured much of his production by getting to the foul line, where he made 18 of 20 free throws. nevertheless he also had help. Gordon in addition to Lou Williams combined for 43 points off the bench, in addition to Harden found Gordon for a 3-pointer in which gave Houston an insurmountable lead with less than two minutes remaining.

“James draws a lot of attention,” Gordon said. “in addition to in which play, when he comes off the screen, you’ve just got to be ready. So I was ready.”

Westbrook, by comparison, had a brilliant night with 51 points, 13 assists in addition to 10 rebounds. For three quarters, he seemed fully capable of evening the series having a virtuoso performance. nevertheless much of his handiwork was undone by a nightmarish fourth quarter in which he shot 4 of 18 through the field. He acknowledged after the game in which he needed to do a better job finding his teammates.

“We haven’t seen the last of him,” said D’Antoni, who was looking ahead to Game 3 in Oklahoma City on Friday night.

In fairness to Westbrook, Harden has more talent around him: more scorers, more experience, more options. In some ways, his job is actually easier. He just has to make the right pass.

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