NBA WC Finals Aftermath; Houston We Have a Problem


Houston Rockets Basketball Style Can’t Win It All.

The Mike D’Antoni-led Houston Rockets deserve credit for their 2017-18 NBA season. They finished with 65 wins in the regular season and accumulated the highest winning percentage in the league. The bearded wonder, James Harden had an MVP-caliber season again. Center Clint Capella has developed into an excellent interior scorer and defender. The addition of Chris Paul added toughness, leadership, and versatility. With Paul running point, Harden could play off the ball and focus even more on scoring. But with all that ‘good,’ comes the bad. The Rockets may have pushed the Golden State Warriors to seven games, but once again huge questions about ‘Clutch City’s ability to beat the Warriors and win an NBA title as constructed.

Final shot chart of the Houston Rockets in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. Courtesy of SBNation

A Mason’s Convention

The Rockets weren’t clutch and shot more bricks than you’d find at a construction site. The team shot an abysmal 7-44 from the three-point line and during one stretch, “Houston missed 27 in a row from three-point range. According to ESPN, that’s the most consecutive misses from a team in the playoffs ever.”

Digging deeper into the stats, Trevor Ariza went scoreless in over 40 minutes of play and missed all nine ‘threes’ he attempted. Eric Gordon only made two three-pointers and Harden shot 2-13 from behind the stripe. Harden did score over 30 points in the game, but in the crucial third quarter, Harden could not contain Steph or Klay Thompson and by the end of the game looked winded. Chris Paul couldn’t play due to a hamstring injury suffered in the final moments of Game Six. So with Paul out and the rest of the team struggling, Harden wasn’t enough to win the game.

What’s Wrong with Clutch City?

Rockets apologists will say they had one bad game, but FTS thinks the Rockets’ problems go deeper. Namely, it’s their stubborn head coach’s offensive philosophy, reliance on an aging point guard whose body is breaking down, and a star player who gets gassed at the end of crucial games in the playoffs. That’s right, we said it, Harden isn’t physically fit enough right now to win a title.

The Solution

James Harden needs to learn from history and upgrade his mind and body. The late 80s into the 90s were an amazing basketball era. Several young teams battled through adversity to become champions. The Bad Boy Pistons had to de-throne the Boston Celtics before winning. Then the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan needed to slay Detroit before starting their own championship run.

From 1988 to 1990, Jordan and the Bulls were manhandled by their Eastern Conference rivals. If you watched the ESPN 30 for 30 “Bad Boys” documentary, Jordan admitted in interviews about the Pistons “physically he wasn’t ready [for Detroit’s style of play] and he didn’t have the energy,” to go back at Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, and Dennis Rodman. After the 1989 Playoffs, Jordan got stronger mentally and physically. He learned to trust his teammates and didn’t allow the Pistons to push him around on the court.

After Harden’s epic collapse in the 2017 playoffs, he seemed to finally get the message. He got ‘ripped’ during the summer and appeared committed to win a title. But, why did it take him a decade in the league to get serious about his conditioning? Also, if you paid close attention to the Western Conference Finals this year, by Games 5 through 7, Harden wasn’t as effective as the beginning of the series. Did he get tired again?

James Harden gets ready for the 2018 NBA season. Via Reddit

If Harden insists on relying on his ‘iso’ game to score, dribbling the ball for the majority of the shot clock at nearly 40 minutes a game, he will wear down. To continue at this pace or take that next step in the NBA, he’s got to take his physique to superhero levels. Harden, hail your king.

LeBron James Ripped Physique. Via YouTube