Rockets beat Thunder, send series back to OKC
James Harden sat behind a microphone in the interview room in the bowels of the Toyota Center late on Monday night.
His team just won Game 4 of its first round playoff series 105-103 over the Thunder. And they did it in spite of him.
But they won. And he was in a good mood.
“Ah … well I did have a double-double,” Harden said jokingly.
And he did. Harden scored 15 points to go along with 10 turnovers and just three assists. He became the third player since 1985-86 to have at least 10 turnovers with three or fewer assists.
He finished one turnover shy of the NBA playoff single-game record.
“I couldn’t get it going early and then at halftime and came into the third quarter and was being aggressive and then the foul trouble set me back,” Harden said. “I was out basically out the whole fourth quarter, then coming in, trying to make big shots. I was cold but the defensive plays that we made to win the game helped us a lot.”
While the team’s best player, Harden, struggled, his teammates picked him up. Chandler Parsons scored 27 points to go with 10 rebounds and eight assists, just two shy from a triple-double. Omer Asik scored 17 with 14 rebounds. In his first playoff start, Francisco Garcia scored nine and played tight defense on Kevin Durant. Patrick Beverley’s defense was stout and he scored 16 points. And Carlos Delfino scored 13 points – nine on threes.
So Harden had one of his worst games in a Rockets’ uniform. But the Rockets still won. And that says a lot about the team, especially with Jeremy Lin sitting on the bench with a chest injury.
“James did not have a very good game for James but I really thought that Chandler (Parsons), Omer (Asik), Patrick (Beverley), (Francisco Garcia’s) defense, (Carlos Delfino) was hitting shots,” McHale said. “Everybody that played did a good job.”
Beverley argued that Harden didn’t have a bad game. Instead, he said, that while Harden missed shots, the attention Harden garnered allowed others to make big plays and shots.
Maybe that was true but as the Rockets closed out Game 4, Harden almost gave it away. With 1:23 remaining in the game, and with a four-point lead, Harden missed a 26-footer.
On the next possession, Harden again took a three-pointer. This time, he missed a 24-footer with 55 seconds left.
On the next possession, Harden finally stepped inside the three-point line but still settled for a jumper. This time he missed a 20-footer with 13 seconds left that gave the Thunder the ball with a chance to tie.
“Those are good shots,” Harden said. “I was just cold. Freezing.”
Harden was in foul trouble, so he was forced to sit on the bench for much of the fourth quarter. That, he said, contributed to not being able to find a rhythm late in the game, which is probably true. It’s just that those aren’t the shots the Rockets wanted the team to take.
“We said we wanted to attack the paint,” McHale said. “We set up a play where I thought we, we tried to set up an overload situation, where we can drive quick and dish out but the jump shots at the end, they’re all-or-nothing shots. We have to get that thing in the paint.”
But after the last missed shot by Harden, the team tightened up on defense and didn’t allow the Thunder to have a good look to tie the game.
“A lot of guys came in and contributed,” Harden said. “It was a very good team win for us.”