Ok - so there's plenty of blame to go around as to why this game was even close enough to require a last second game winning shot from Harden. Booting the ball around to the tune of 26 turnovers is enough to lose most ball games.
Now, we all know Harden has his flaws, and not to beat a dead horse - we all know he's a defensive liability. That's not what's particularly troubling. It's a lack of accountability for those shortcomings.
"They made some tough shots. We're in our principles. In the first half they had some open looks but didn't knock them down. In the second half they did, a couple of ill advised, others were our principles and we did our principles and they made shots." - Harden, post-game interview
As opposed to Chandler:
"We knew they weren't going to lay down but we really needed to tighten up defensively because we really snuck out of here with one."
"We got away with our mistakes and our lapses."
You can't correct a problem if you aren't aware a problem exists. Whether or not Harden is just blowing smoke or actually believes the team is following their defensive principles, I can't say. The following screen caps are definitely not the defensive principles that the coaches are preaching.
3rd Quarter - Ariza has already hit 5 threes in the game, Harden is ball-watching and helping (?) off Ariza.
Next Wizards possession, Ariza has already hit 6 threes and Harden is below the free throw line when Ariza catches the ball at the top of the arc.
Again, I don't want to pile on here - but at some point for the Rockets to reach the next level, Harden needs to step up as one of the team's superstars. That includes leading by example on the defensive end and in the locker room. It's great that he's able to pull out the heroics and win games with a last second bucket, but it would be even better if the Rockets can push leads and cruise to easy wins. In this game, all it probably would have taken was another 6 minutes of focused play to push a 19 point lead to 25+. Instead, a 19 point lead shrunk to 13 in under 30 seconds, and an already hot Ariza went absolutely unconscious.