With the NBA Playoffs in full swing, the Houston Rockets duo of James Harden and Chris Paul have gone from State Farm pitchmen to walking insurance policies. The Hall of Fame coverage at point guard has powered the Rockets to a 2-0 first round lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
In game one James Harden was the insurance policy. The Beard posted 44 points, 4 rebounds, and 8 assists while shooting 15-26 from the floor and 7-12 from three. The Rockets won a squeaker 104-101.
Chris Paul largely disappeared. The floor general scored just 14 points with an uncharacteristic 4 assists and 6 turnovers. These stats coupled with inexplicable passes and an errant end-of-game turnover almost cost the Rockets game one.
Rockets fans and the NBA spent three days overreacting just in time for Paul and Harden to flip the script.
In game two Chris Paul transformed from State Farm spokesperson to living breathing insurance policy. When invoked the policy offers the Houston Rockets complete and total coverage in games James Harden underwhelms.
The Point God went off for 27 points, 8 assists, and 3 steals while putting some serious moves on hapless Minnesota defenders:
CHRIS stop having so much fun it's serious playoff time pic.twitter.com/2VboPlksGl— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) April 19, 2018
Harden, meanwhile, invoked memories of poor performances past by shooting 2-18 from the field and 1-10 from three. The Beard was battling through new defensive swarms from the Timberwolves and a haggard shot. It’s a testament to his ability to draw fouls that he ended the game with 12 points.
All season the Harden-Paul focus has been on the ability to stagger the two players to allow a Hall of Fame point guard to be on the court at all times. The last two games have questioned that belief, instead suggesting the duo allow the Rockets to have an alpha superstar in every game, even when one of the two is set to disappoint.
There’s little question the Rockets would have lost last night’s game in the 2017 playoffs. The makeup of the team required Harden to arrive with a live jump shot and basketball spidey sense for the Rockets to win. Chris Paul resets that expectation.
When the two share the court, they waylay opposing defenses between two sources of gravity. On Wednesday night, the Timberwolves chose to do everything possible to contain Harden. He was swarmed on drives and denied much of the isolation looks he’s drilled all year. But the compensation created space for Chris Paul and others.
This could all be a head fake of course. I wouldn’t put it past Pepsi and State Farm to collaborate on an in-game promotion which replaces James Harden with his twin Jimmy Harden. But barring an amazing synergistic cross-promotion, the Rockets look set to have at least one alpha superstar player showing up each night for the remainder of the playoffs. When they both show up, look out.