Following a 110-100 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4, Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni was tasked with explaining why his star player, James Harden, was limited to only 11 shot attempts in a ghastly all-around effort.
The veteran coach didn't mince words when talking about Thursday's outcome, one that has the Rockets pinned to the wall, facing elimination:
“Well, they’re double-teaming every time,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said in regards to Harden’s 11 field goal attempts on Thursday, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic. “I don’t really look. Those are stats that don’t really mean anything. Just as long as somebody’s scoring. And we’ve done it in different quarters. We just haven’t sustained it all the way through. And a lot of that is creating turnovers, running. You know in half-court, they’re going to double him and it’s going to be up the other guys to score a little bit more.”
Harden managed to salvage a 21-point, 10-assist outing on Thursday, but was a futile was 2-of-11 from the floor, only saved by his 16-of-20 shots made from the foul line.
But a look at the box score does not tell the entire story. There were times Harden could have been more aggressive and instead pump-faked his way to a drive or an impromptu pass that his teammates didn't expect.
“Again, I just look at what’s the right play in that one moment,” said D’Antoni on the matter. “I think for the most part he was trying to make the right play. They’re good. They got guys running around. When LeBron’s running around, they were dive-bombing the guy in the middle. So we’ll have to get ready for that. Do a little bit of a better job. But you got to give them their part in it. They’re playing really well, running around like crazy.”
Harden was more reactive than proactive in Game 4 and he let the Lakers dictate his flow of the game. If the Rockets are to stave off elimination and give themselves a fighting chance, Harden will have to act like the league's leading scorer and put pressure on the Lakers instead of letting them take him out of the game.