WHATEVER IT TAKES

How commitment on defense is paying off for James Harden and the Rockets

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

Thursday night, the Rockets were able to take a bigger step in the seeding because of a 113-97 win against the Los Angeles Lakers. They were able to do so without their starting point guard, Russell Westbrook. James Harden had big night by providing 39 points, 12 assists, and shot 50% from three. Harden was even a plus 16 from the field of play.

Ever since the Harden entered the bubble, he has played exceptionally well on defense and offense. Harden has seen a numerous number of double teams since playing the Dallas Mavericks. But Harden said they prepare for it well in practice. This allows shooters like Ben McLemore, Jeff Green, PJ Tucker, and Austin Rivers to get open. Harden has been able to direct his teammates to the middle of the paint or kick it out to the corner.

"Really good. That's nothing new to us. We [have] seen that already. That's something actually we practice. We watch film on teams that trap. Guys are in their right spots, get some open shots, and [a] couple of layups," as Harden told the media Thursday night.

Harden in the last four games is averaging 33.8 points per game, shooting 35.8% from three, nine assists, and 5.3 steals a game.

Harden has played stellar defense in these four games as well. Before the playoffs start, Harden wants the Rockets' defense to be better. Even though the Rockets are 5th in steals, there still can be improvement. The Rockets defense has looked good in the bubble as well. They are ranked 7th in general team defense.

On a good note, coach Mike D'Antoni has admired Harden's defense while in the bubble.

"His commitment on defense is the number one thing. Really talking and trying to get guys to buy-in. You got to do it by example. He came up with steals and he is locked in. Whatever it takes to win," as D'Antoni said.

Harden did like the way they played defense Thursday night by holding the Lakers under 100 points. Especially, when Anthony Davis is on limited minutes and LeBron James did not play.

"What I'm really proud of is on the defensive end. They did not score 100 points. Even with LeBron [James] not playing and AD playing limited minutes, our goal is to defend on a high-level tonight and I think we did that tonight," as Harden said. "That's going to win us a championship, on the defensive end."

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