Payne: Harden Atoned For San Antonio No-Show

James Harden was horrendous in a do-or-die game against the Spurs last season. On Tuesday, he was better. Much better.

Taz and the Moose
May 23, 2018 - 10:23 am

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With Houston’s season on the line last year, James Harden had one of the worst games of his Rockets tenure. He scored just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting against San Antonio, as the Rockets lost Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals by 39 points – at home.

It was ugly.

“James Harden just was awful in that Game 6 elimination game last year,” Houston 610 morning-show host Seth Payne said on Taz & The Moose. “But I think he’s atoned for that somewhat.”

Indeed, Harden scored a game-high 30 points in Houston’s 95-92 win over Golden State on Tuesday. In doing so, he helped even the series at 2-2 and snapped the Warriors’ 16-game postseason home winning streak.

“Even though he was not good in the fourth quarter offensively, he kept putting out defensively,” Payne said. “The reason you bring Chris Paul in is he needs to be able to pick up the slack at times when James Harden can’t get it going offensively. James Harden kept playing defense. He’s not the best defender in the world, but he kept playing defense and then Chris Paul just came up huge in the fourth quarter.”

Paul finished with 27 points and shot 10-of-20 from the floor, including 5-of-9 from three.

Game 5 is Thursday in Houston at 9 p.m. ET.

“I really feel like whoever wins Game 5 has the advantage and is likely going to win the series,” Payne said. “But it’s simple mathematics. You look at (the Warriors’) number of elite basketball players versus the number of Rockets elite basketball players, and the Warriors have every single team in the league beat on that status.”

Payne predicted prior to the series that Houston would lose in six games. Now, however, he believes the Rockets could force a Game 7, in part because they haven't had a lights-out shooting performance yet. Houston shot 23-of-72 (31.9 percent) from three in Games 3 and 4. If that numbers improves in Game 5 or Game 6, Game 7 is a distinct possibility.

“It really just does come down to that seventh game at Toyota Center in Houston,” he said. “Houston doesn’t have a reputation of having a particularly intimidating home crowd. They’ve been good in this series so far, and that’s what you really have to bank on: the three-point shooting, the defense – which is vastly improved this season – and then simple home-court advantage.”