How James Harden played in this game, I don't know.
I listened to Matt Pinto and Bob Barry Jr. this morning, and the verdict was that it would be a huge surprise if James Harden played tonight.
Luckily, I love surprises. James Harden finished the game with 23 Points in 25 minutes. At one point, according to JoCro, he had 13 Points in 3 Minutes at the end of the first and the beginning of the second. That's absolutely insane. But you know why it happened? Because the Thunder decided to play a James Harden type of game.
They played fast-break ball. But it wasn't Nellieball. In Nellieball, which is named for Don Nelson, current coach of the Golden State Warriors, you play 4 guards and a Center (or, in some cases, 5 guards) and you keep jacking up 3s and usually only attacking the basket on fast breaks or when your offense is looking stagnant. Instead, they played a Fast Break game more akin to Mike D'Antoni, in which the team sets a lot of pick n' rolls and rotates the ball around the perimeter.
The Rockets simply had no way of stopping us inside. Nearly everyone on their team was shorter than Durant, Green, and Krstic, allowing us to take them to town every time we ran inside for a layup. They kept us with us relatively well, as they could fast break and hit jumpers just as well as we could. But when they fell on the bad end of a run, they thought that bringing in 7 Footer Hilton Armstrong was a good idea, so he could defend the paint. It was actually a terrible idea. He looked big and immobile, unable to keep up with the fast pace of the game. Even when he did get back on defense, he'd get easily outwitted by Durant. On top of that, he could really do nothing on offense but set picks.
Below: Anaylsis, Awards
But if I really had to break this game down and give the real reason why the Rockets lost, it would have to be their lack of bench. Their 4 normal rotation guys were gone, leaving them to rely on mostly third stringers coming into the game. This led to a huge disparity between the Rocket starters and the Rocket bench. Even when you'd only have one rocket bencher out there, he could be easily exploited, and the starters only got more tired as the game went on.
With 10:29 to go in the second, the Thunder were up 47 to 25, and the game was all but over. Let me reiterate that. The game was over before we were even 2 minutes into the 2nd. That's just awesome. The second half was a complete throwaway. The Thunder proved me completely wrong, and they moved the mountain against the Rockets. And heck, even in they had Carl Landry, they still would have lost big time.
Without further ado, let's get on to the awards....
Thunder Wonder: James Harden, 22 Points, 6-10 Shooting, 3-4 3 Pointers, 2 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 2 Steals. Some might say that this award wasn't based on performance, because Kevin Durant had just as good of a game, but that's not true. Not only did James Harden come back from injury, he single-handedly put the team up 50 to 27 in the second quarter, completely shutting the door on a Rocket comeback. 10 of his points were in garbage time, but his run was so critical that I think he deserves it. Not to mention the great defense he played on Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry.
Thunder Down Under: Jeff Green, 19 Points, 8-11 Shooting, 3-4 3 Pointers, 5 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 1 Block, 2 Steals. I said Jeff Green would have to step it up in a game like this, and he really did. Not only did he step up on the offensive end, but he was a great rebounder and willing to share the ball. He probably had the best performance of the game if you discount scoring, but scoring is essential in a game like this, and thus he is relegated to Thunder Down Under status.
Thunder Blunder: Russell Westbrook, 4 Points, 2-7 Shooting, 5 Rebounds, 8 Assists, 5 Turnovers, 1 Block. Nearly everybody stepped up, but sometimes, high-caliber players have flaws that you can't overlook. It's not as if the Thunder really needed his scoring help, but as a point guard who mostly shoots open jumpers and layups, you can't go 2-7 for the night and expect to be commended. Don't get me wrong, he did a good job of orchestrating the team and keeping the ball movement going, but when you shoot this badly and turn it over 5 times in a game where everybody did so well, you just have to take the fall.
Thunder Plunderer: Trevor Ariza, 20 Points, 8-14 Shooting, 3-4 3 Pointers, 3 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 2 Steals, 2 Blocks. We did a good job of completely negating the Rockets tonight, and Trevor Ariza didn't have much success in aggravating Durant offensively as he's done in the past. But he still had a great offensive performance, and that's why he's the Thunder Wonder tonight. Also, Luis Scola did a nice job filling in for Carl Landry, but there was little to no offensive or defensive help from the rest of the team.
Next Game: Versus the Lakers, Friday, March 26th, 7 PM Central Daylight Time.