Harden knows he needs to improve in Game 3

Harden knows he needs to improve in Game 3
April 25, 2014, 6:00 pm
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(USA Today Sports Images)

The playoffs can be a time for the best players to shine and to be at their best, even the clear top focus for their opposition is to stop them.
In the Rockets' first two games of their opening-round playoff series, the Blazers best player, LaMarcus Aldridge, has put on quite a show, delivering arguably the best two performances of his NBA career.

However James Harden's performances rest on the other side of the spectrum, with words like puzzling, disappointing and regrettable attached to them.

Harden has missed 33 of his 47 shots in the two playoff games and settled for 19 3-pointers, making just six. Also troubling is his performance close to the rim, where he's just 6-of-15 (40 percent) in this series. Harden has also been unable to do much to create for his teammates with just 10 assists thus far in the series. He averaged better than seven assists per game since the All-Star break.

He seems keenly aware that much of the Rockets fate rests on his shoulders.

"This is a great test for us," Harden said. "This is going to be our game-changing of the season right here, getting a win here in Portland. I think everybody was just too calm at home. Too calm, like it was going to be easy, even though we had two opportunities to win both games. Our game is going to come around.

"My game is going to come around. It's about the small plays, the hustle plays that we're not doing. I have been shooting the ball terribly and we had an opportunity to win both games. We have so much talent in this locker room, that we shouldn't be down 0-2. It's our job to get it done, not so much talking about it, but just going out there and executing."

Harden's past experiences in the playoffs, both with the Rockets last season and his NBA finals appearance with Oklahoma City the season prior, help shape his thinking heading into the Rockets' Game 3 Friday night in Portland. His Thunder took a 1-0 lead in their Finals series against the Heat, before losing four consecutive games.

Last season, the Rockets dropped the first three games to Oklahoma City then rebounded with a pair of wins, before losing Game 6.

"All the time, all the time," Harden said about going through things like this before. "Throughout this year and a half, its all been a learning experience for me. So now this is a just another one that I will get through. Obviously the Finals is a different stage, but here being the guy that my teammates are looking for to step up and make plays, so it's a similar situation. It's my job to go out there and do it.

When asked if a lot of what he needed to do was simply mental and was strictly about him and his mindset as opposed to what the Blazers are doing, he said, "All me, all me."

"I just have to be more precise and have thrust in my game," Harden said. "I don't want to look back and say I've got next year, tonight is the night to turn things around."