Houston Rockets superstar James Harden put on a marvelous defensive display against Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo on Sunday.
Yes, you read that right. The bearded guard, often criticized for his lack of effort on D, just shut down the reigning MVP in the closing minutes of their highly-competitive match.
Harden put the clamps on Giannis in crunch time 🔒 pic.twitter.com/dPdgdHg9vX
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 3, 2020
With the Rockets’ best defenders having their hands full against the Bucks’ massive frontline, Harden took it upon himself to try and slow down the Greek Freak.
Antetokounmpo tried to bully the smaller Harden at the post with a minute-and-a-half left in regulation. But The Beard stood his ground and did a tremendous job of corraling his space without fouling.
Giannis nearly fumbled the basketball and was forced to kick it back out to George Hill.
To be fair, the entire Rockets squad played tremendous team defense against the league-leading Bucks in the end game. Although massively undersized against Milwaukee’s behemoths, their stifling D was key in their 120-116 victory.
The Rockets crowded the Bucks’ passing lanes and forced them to commit sloppy turnovers in the closing minutes.
They pounced on those mistakes quickly and converted it to easy fastbreak points on the other end.
The Houston Rockets just beat the #1 team in the NBA…with defense. pic.twitter.com/0LIAK7X1Av
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) August 3, 2020
Giannis still finished with a near triple-double of 36 points, 18 rebounds, and eight assists, but his inability to get past Harden, in crunchtime cost his team greatly.
It is also worth noting that Antetokounmpo and Harden share a heated rivalry of some sorts after the pair took shots at each other after figuring in a close MVP race last year.
Harden definitely got the better of the Greek superstar this time around, despite having the inferior numbers tonight. He struggled shooting the ball, going 5-for-14 from the field for 24 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.
But Harden certainly more than made up for it on the other side of the ball, collecting six of Houston’s 15 total steals.