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SportsCenter reel highlights James Harden shooting threes not to make them, but to get fouled

Rockets, James Harden

A recent SportsCenter video featuring longtime anchor Scott Van Pelt gave further context and a sense of clarity surrounding the landing spot controversy that has engulfed the narrative of an otherwise fantastic rivalry between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. The tape shows James Harden’s antis of fishing for foul calls during his 3-point shots, as Van Pelt argued the Rockets guard doesn’t shoot to make them, but to earn trips to the free-throw line in exchange.

“My contention is more than the shot itself if more an attempt to create contact — or at least the appearance of contact — than it is to actually shoot the ball,” said Van Pelt on Monday night’s SportsCenter. “That’s not what an uncontested shot looks like. This is.”

The 20-second mark of the video below shows a plethora of wide-open, uncontested 3-point attempts from Harden, in which he land only slightly forward from where he took off. Then for contrast at the 50-second mark, Harden’s contested threes appear to have a concerted effort to lean into the opponent to draw contact, making that the main point of his shot, rather than to score.

The same point was argued in this column, noting that Harden has conditioned the officials and baited them into making this call throughout the regular season, but after 82 games of experience, the refs have caught on to his antics.

Monday’s Game 1 was only a true exhibition of his season-long approach during a high-stakes playoff game — bottled for national consumption.

Harden led all players in fouls on 3-point attempts, getting 95 of those calls throughout the regular season (1.22 per game after playing 78 games). The next best were Terrence Ross and Kemba Walker, two limber 3-point shooters that only mustered 34 such calls throughout the season.

The reigning MVP converted 20 of those 95 for 4-point plays, 11 more than the next best in Philadelphia 76ers sniper JJ Redick.