James Harden hit a clutch shot. It was awesome.
The inbounds before, the bench reaction, Draymond Green's kerfuffle, and the inbounds after are all parentheticals to me. I don't care. James Harden played hero for a minute, and I want to talk about it.
People, for some reason, love to talk about James Harden's leadership qualities, or lack thereof. Many of these accusations are, although I hate to say it, are completely fair. He does tend to shrink in moments. He has entire games where it looks as if he's checked out. The best I've heard it described was on back on Grantland, and I'm butchering it, but there is something about James Harden's eyes when he makes a mistake. He's scared. He's embarrassed, and ashamed, and worried. He's a fantastic ball player, but he's almost like a child when he makes a mistake.
I think, we all think, that James Harden thinks too much. It's surprising when he shoots at the end of a shot clock, and it is unsurprising that he waits until after a quarter's buzzer to chuck a full court shot. He worries about his percentages, and in a season where he hasn't had that luxury, it has been infuriating to watch.
But last night... I don't know. Maybe it was that it was a home game, or maybe he thinks the series is already over, but there was a visible lack of inhibitions in Harden's game. He wanted the ball. He wanted the shots. He dunked all over the Warriors in a halfcourt set and he hardly ever dunks at all.
That shot, though. That was example A1 of what it means to "just play." There were no timeouts left and nothing to lose, but Harden didn't have time to think about either of those factors as he got to his spot, full speed, and did that insane spin to stepback we've all seen him convert 1,000 times.
I know what some of you must be saying, and I agree. It is just one shot in one game in a series the Rockets are very far from winning. James Harden still has over-thinking issues, and his leadership qualities are still certainly lacking (just ask everyone on the bench after that shot besides Clint Capela and Donatas Motiejunas). But, whenever I'm asked about how I feel with James Harden leading my team, I say "James Harden, in spite of his beard, is 26 years old. He's got time." He does, and it's moments like these that give me more confidence in saying he is well on his way.
And who cares if he pushed Andre Iguodala off with his arm. Would you really rather see a foul called and the Warriors go up 3-0? You know what... Don't answer that.