After a 125-112 loss to the Portland Trailblazers, the Houston Rockets are 6-7 for the month of January. James Harden’s average is below his season average at 32.7. Harden shooting percentage is 35% for the month. This after a 10-5 December and scoring average at 37.2 for December. There have been injuries like the strained calf he is dealing with now that is out of his control. But there are adjustments and situations that Harden and Mike D’Antoni can control and must improve on or the Rockets aren’t advancing in the playoffs.
Double teams aren’t going away Harden must adjust
The NBA is a copy cat league. From the evolution of small ball to 3-pointers and layups only the league tends to go with the popular trend. Superstars being double team is nothing new but some teams have taken it to the extreme this year. Even before this month teams have double team Harden to get the ball out of his hands. But before it was still a rare occurrence for teams to do it every possession. Now almost every team doubles Harden from the opening tip to the end of the game. Opposing teams are banking on Harden’s teammates not making there open shots. If you just look at the numbers you may think the Rockets aren’t suffering to bad since they still have a top offense. The problem comes in when you are constantly missing open shots it puts your defense in a bind.
To combat this Harden has to get into the offense faster which in turns put stress on the defense to make a decision quickly. It also gives you more time on the shot clock to move the ball around. The Rockets tried the same strategy on Damian Lillard and he aggressively split the double team on several occasions. Yes injuries are a part of why Harden is less aggressive but if he is playing he has to force the action and not let teams dictate how he plays.
D’Antoni must put Harden in better spots
For D ‘Antoni part he has to put Harden in better positions to succeed. D ‘Antoni can start by moving Harden off the ball more and have him coming off screens. Its to easy now to game plan for the Rockets if you have Harden moving off the ball more it will make his job a lot easier and the defense has to scramble more. Also, get Harden into the post since most players he goes up against he should be able to overpower them. Even if they double team the post
D ‘Antoni recently said in a post game interview that you can ask Harden to stop shooting 3-pointers but he has won a lot of games for them. This leads some to think that Harden runs his own plays at times. D ‘Antoni is in the final year of his deal and no one knows if he will be back or not. At this point he needs to put his foot down and implore Harden to change his style. No matter how efficient 3-pointers are some of the times they are still shot from 23 feet or deeper with a hand in your face. Unless you are shooting 45 percent or better sometimes you need to adjust and operate closer to the paint.
Everyone knows that Harden is an all time great scorer including opposing teams. This is what separates championship teams from also rans. The ability to adjust if the Rockets don’t adjust soon this could be another season that ends before June even starts.
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