Down 2-0 in their playoff series against the Warriors, many NBA fans believed that the Rockets were finished.
But behind two straight MVP-like performances from James Harden, the Rockets evened the series at 2-2, with both victories coming in front of a raucous Houston crowd.
“I think our mentality changed after Game 2,” Harden told reporters after Monday’s win.
The superstar poured in 38 points and 10 rebounds in Tuesday’s 112-108 win over the Warriors, but it was his care of the basketball that stood out most.
Harden had just two turnovers in the victory, resulting in a 5.8 turnover percentage. Compare that to his previous three games in the series and you can see the difference.
|James Harden vs. Warriors (Games 1-3)||Minutes||Turnovers||Turnover Percentage|
|Game 1 (104-100 Loss)||38||4||10.5|
|Game 2 (115-109 Loss)||34||6||20.7|
|Game 3 (126-121 Win)||45||3||7.8|
But turnovers are only a part of the story.
As you’ll see below, Harden’s efficiency improved when the series shifted to Houston.
|James Harden vs. Warriors||Points||FG %||3-point %||Assists||Rebounds||Turnovers||Basketball-Reference Game Score|
|Games 1-2 (in Golden State)||32.0||38.3||30.4||5.0||5.5||5.0||19.5|
|Games 3-4 (in Houston)||39.5||44.3||36.7||5.0||9.5||2.5||27.2|
While Harden shot better at home than on the road during the regular season, the difference wasn’t as stark as it’s been through four playoff games against Golden State. His efficiency from the floor has shined in part due to his lower usage rate in two home games despite playing almost six more minutes per contest.
“I’m always trying to be efficient, I’m always trying to score the basketball,” said Harden.
Harden attempted nearly seven more shots per game in Houston than he did in Golden State as part of the Rockets’ plan to match the Warriors punch for punch. Houston has attempted 333 shots to Golden State’s 351 through four games. The Rockets also have a 179-124 edge on shots behind the arc.
“Most teams can’t go back at them [the Warriors]. Most teams don’t have the personnel to compete with them defensively and then offensively go back at them,” observed Harden. “That’s all we’re doing. We know what’s at stake, we know who we’re playing against, we’re not gonna let up.”
If Harden can carry his play in Games 3 and 4 over through the rest of the series, the Rockets might avenge last year’s bitter postseason collapse against the Warriors.
“Every possession is going to be a fight,” added Harden. “It’s going to be a battle and we got to get ready for Game 5.”