I know it wasn't the most efficient game from the MVP candidate, but James Harden finally pulled out a reasonably good game against the Los Angeles Clippers. 21 points on 4-13 from the field with 10 assists may not seem all that great, until you take a look at how bad he's been against the Clippers:
James Harden (27.3 PPG this season): 13.4 PPG career vs Clippers (his worst against any team) Clippers at Rockets, 8 ET on ESPN— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 25, 2015
Exactly. Terrible. This game started down that same path.
Harden clearly came out of the locker room looking to take the pressure off of the Clippers infamous defensive traps by facilitating a lot more in the opening quarter (4 assists). The rest of the starting lineup fed off that ball movement early, as only one basket in the first was not assisted.
With Houston not getting a lot of good opportunities in the paint, due to the Clippers are doing an admiral job of packing the paint, Harden did have opportunities from outside. He just couldn't throw a pebble in the ocean early on.
Harden missed various open looks, making you wonder if his struggles against the Clips had become a mental hurdle that he would have to overcome. He was seeing so many bodies thrown at him (especially in the paint) it got a little ridiculous. His forays to that point seemed a bit wild and miscalculated at this. He didn't even get his first free throw attempt until 3:30 left in the first quarter.
In the interim, the Rockets defense surely wasn't compensating. Honestly, outside of the fourth quarter, there wasn't much standout defense in this game. Early on, the Rockets were losing J.J. Redick (15 points) on the perimeter and later Jamal Crawford (24 points) put on a one-man show. DeAndre Jordan (22 points, 19 rebounds) had 10 rebounds in the first quarter(!), for crying out loud.
Not that the Rockets were lacking for energy and effort to get the job done on that end. Corey Brewer (20 points, 6 rebounds) brought that in spades tonight.
Rockets have outscored the Clippers 15-1 in the fourth quarter. Corey Brewer himself is outscoring them 10-1.— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) February 26, 2015