Houston Rockets superstar James Harden was struggling mightily on the offensive end in Game 7 against the Oklahoma City Thunder so he wanted to put up a great effort on the defense and help his team win. Harden, one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA, did exactly that as he blocked a three-pointer by Lu Dort to seal a 104-102 win for the Rockets.
Harden scored only 17 points in Game 7 but he dished out nine assists and came up with a clutch block to help the Rockets set up a Western Conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Lakers. "Like [Nipsey] Hussle said, never let a hard time humble us," Harden, referring to the late rapper, said, per ESPN.
"It was just one of those nights offensively, so I just wanted to change the game defensively. I think I did that." Harden shot 4-of-15 from the field and he didn't hide his true feelings about his performance post-game.
"Offensively, I played like s---. Excuse my language," Harden told ESPN's Cassidy Hubbarth in an on-court interview immediately after the game. "I couldn't hit a shot. I turned the ball over. Just doing everything that's not supposed to happen, but I just kept sticking with it.
My teammates gave me confidence throughout the course of the game, and defensively I had to make a play."
Russell Westbrook insists Harden plays defense
"James has been playing defense," Westbrook, who had 20 points in Game 7 to help eliminate his former team, said of Harden.
"I think if media and people actually look at the numbers -- since you guys like to look at numbers -- look at them and then you'll get your answers. James defends." Throughout his career, Harden has been labeled as a bad defender.
"You know how the narratives go," Houston coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Once you get stuck with a label, it's tough for NBA players to shed that label. I've coached so many guys who have improved different areas of their game where people just keep writing about how bad it is, because they don't really study the film and watch and understand totally.
And I think James' defense got a lot better. "He's been locked in, and I think he knows that for us to be able to win at a good clip, the defense has to be there. He's just taking the challenge and doing a great job."