James Harden triple doubled with 33 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, but went full Russell Westbrook hero ball in the overtime session, and the Spurs responded by stealing a game they had no business winning 110-107 to go up 3-2 in the second round series.
The Rockets forced the Spurs into playing their style of game, but Houston missed at least a half dozen kill shots in regulation, and once the game went to overtime, The Beard stopped moving the ball and the Rockets offense suffered as a result. Harden was 0-2 with 3 turnovers in the extra session.
The worst part of it all? The Spurs did it without Kawhi Leonard, who sat late in the fourth and in all of OT with what’s being reported as ankle and knee injuries. Leonard did lead San Antonio with 22 points, but it was the clutch play of Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills and Danny Green that turned the game in the Spurs’ favor.
Ginobli finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists and was massively clutch down the stretch for the Spurs, while Mills finished with 20 and Green finished with 16, including 4 triples.
The Rockets played good defense, holding the Spurs to just 40 percent shooting from the field, and they stayed competitive on the boards, losing the rebounding battle just 52-48 to a much bigger San Antonio squad. Though they did give up 18 offensive boards, many of them late in the contest.
No, it was the Houston offense that let down, as the Rockets wilted late, scoring just 22 total points in the fourth quarter and overtime combined. They were just 43 percent from the field for the night and 16-49 from beyond the arc. They missed several wide open threes down the stretch that likely would have changed the complexion of the game. And then The Beard melted in OT.
I’ve been one of Westbrook’s biggest critics this season, and especially during the first-round series with the Rockets, as his questionable decision-making with the game on the line likely cost the Thunder a game or two, so it’s only fair that Harden receives the same criticism.
Sure, Harden looked tired, and he took a (mostly uncalled) beating in this game, but the fact remains that the Rockets had the Spurs on the ropes, and instead of coming through with timely clutch plays within the system, The Beard wilted under the heat in a Westbrookian display of “why”?
Harden wasn’t all to blame. Lou Williams and Eric Gordon were a combined 1-12 from deep and Mike D’Antoni had no counter for the Spurs’ offensive rebounding. But the game was still there for the taking, and it’s disappointing to see that type of late performance from Harden.
The Rockets got most of their scoring help from Patrick Beverley, who finished with 20, and Ryan Anderson, who had 19 points and 7 rebounds. Ryno also more than held his own as the backup center.
This loss, however, puts the Rockets in quite a predicament. They now have to win two straight to avoid elimination, with the next game taking place Thursday night at the Toyota Center. I expect The Beard to bounce back in a big way.
We sure could use a little Clutch City.