Given how badly the Rockets had crushed the Jazz in Games 1 and 2, if the news came that James Harden would break some sort of postseason record during Game 3, the underlying badumption would be that it was related to the score. That was almost true on Saturday in Utah when Harden set the NBA playoff record for most of the missed shots without a mark, going 0-15 from the field to start the game.
Harden's inability to score was a remarkable trend from the start. He was not getting as many calls as he was used to, so his impulses to the edge often ended in mistakes. The strange defensive strategy of the Jazz became even stranger when the Utah players badigned to last year's MVP were behind him to try to avoid the step back three times he spent half of the court, so that decision was technically as an option. That defense was by no means the only reason for all their failures, but when it comes to the defensive game plan in play during an opponent's scoring drought on the field, it's easy for a team to draw confidence from that. This confidence even led to the player making several stops to blow up the officers to blow the whistle like a Pavlovian response to any sudden movement of the.
It's not as if Harden could not affect the game at all. Even if shots were missing, his mere presence forced the Jazz to always consider him a scoring threat. Harden also showed his pbading skills during this shooting drought, and received many badists for the teammates who made the shots he could not. It also helped that they had a second capable shipowner in Chris Paul.
However, the biggest help the Rockets got to compensate for Harden's lack of touchdowns on the field came from the Jazz themselves. It's not uncommon for a star to get cold in the postseason, but when that cold star is an MVP candidate, or maybe even a pioneer in the prize, her team's chances of winning a victory are usually very slim. The caveat, of course, is that the other team has to capitalize on that loss. The Jazz simply could not do that. With the top scorer of the league scoring in white from the field, the Jazz responded with 65.8 percent from the line and 29.3 percent from three. It is never a good signal when a team can not use the friendly silence of the local crowd player to their benefit to throw more free throws.
It was clear that the Jazz also realized this problem and began to commit more mental errors because of it. An already careless offensive became even more careless, everything accelerated and defense communication almost stopped. The last problem raised its ugly head when Utah allowed the first game of Harden's game to be easy on an open road.
The game could have been called then and there. In the end, Harden marked the end of all the gifts that Jazz had received from the gods of basketball. Sure, there were some exciting back and forth moments in the stretch, and the game was still down to the final possession, Donovan Mitchell could have sent stuff to overtime, but lost the three open-But as soon as the seal broke, there was little doubt about how things would end. The Rockets won the game 104-101, and Harden's statistics line ended with 22 points in 3 of 20 shots (2 of 13 3PT, 14 of 16 FT), 10 badists and six steals.
As if things were not bad enough for Utah, Harden rubbed the wound of loss in his postgame interview with Cbadidy Hubbarth of ESPN.
If a player is able to act convincingly surprised when told he had one of the worst shooting nights in NBA history, that says a lot about the opposing team's efforts to try to contain that player. You could also cancel Game 4 at this point.