The entire basketball world knows how good of a player James Harden is. He has the ability to score in a variety of ways, making him a nightmare matchup for anyone assigned to cover the Houston Rockets bearded superstar — even if he is defended by some of the best in the league on the defensive end.
One of them is Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who had the assignment of limiting The Beard’s production on Saturday night.
Despite being known as a solid defender who is willing to go toe-to-toe with the best guards today, Smart was not successful in fronting Harden. The 23-year-old Oklahoma State product understands that there will always be some calls given to the superstars of the league, which makes last season’s MVP runner-up even more difficult to defend. Smart then shared, via Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe, that he knows he just needs to continue playing as superstars often get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to being fouled during games.
“When you’re playing a guy like that who gets those types of calls, it’s pretty much like you’re playing in foul trouble,” Smart said. “You’ve got to play really certain. You have to be really solid. You can’t really play the defense that you want, because you know nine times out of 10 he’s going to get those calls.
It doesn’t matter whether your hands are up or not. He still gets them. We saw that here tonight a few times, and we’ve seen that every other game. He has a way of using his hands, grabbing us, pulling us into him and drawing those fouls. He’s been doing it for a long time. He gets the benefit of the doubt.”
“It happens all around the league. You get certain players who get calls that other guys just wouldn’t get. We all know the rule. We all understand it. Superstars are going to be superstars. We get it. It is what it is. We’ve just got to play.”
James Harden had another solid outing on Saturday, finishing with a double-double of 26 points and 11 assists, to go along with seven rebounds and five steals. Eric Gordon also played a very good game, recording 29 points, including seven 3-pointers, with three rebounds, while Trevor Ariza chipped in 21 points, three rebounds, two assists and three steals of his own.
The matchup could be a preview of this year’s Finals, as both teams are headed to the playoffs owning high seeds in their respective conferences. While the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, among others, may prevent them from advancing to the championship series, they will both be very tough matchups in the postseason,but for what it’s worth, the Rockets also sent a strong message to the C’s with their hard-earned victory on the night, giving them a mental edge against them should they meet again.
One thing that can be expected though is that Marcus Smart and company will prepare better, and will give their best to avoid having the same results.