The Portland Trail Blazers took a 2-0 series lead on the Houston Rockets with a 112-105 win on Wednesday night.
The Rockets were a trendy sleeper pick in the West coming into the playoffs, but they have been undone by the dominance of LaMarcus Aldridge and an untimely shooting slump from James Harden.
Harden is shooting just 14 for 47 (29.8%) in the playoffs. He’s taking more shots (23.5 per games compared to 16.5 per game in the regular) season, making fewer of them, and getting to the free throw line less (7.0 FT attempts per game compared to 9.1 FT attempts per game in the regular season). He has also turned it over nine times.
His shot chart is ugly (red means below league average):
The Rockets are getting increased production from Dwight Howard, who had 32 points last night, but it’s not enough to compensation for Harden’s slump.
Tensions boiled over after the game when Harden got into a bizarre dust-up with an NBA.com reporter in the locker room.
The reporter, Fran Blinebury, asked Harden about his shooting during his media availability. After it was over, Harden went over to him and they got into an argument that ended with Harden calling him a “weirdo.”
From ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh:
“A few minutes later, the questions stopped coming, but not before Harden, evidently still aggravated, circled back and spun the questioning to the aforementioned reporter, taking issue with his basketball credibility.
“‘You’ve never seen someone shoot 29 per cent in two games? You must not watch basketball.’
“The longtime reporter responded that he’d watching basketball longer than Harden had been alive. And that Harden should be held to a higher standard because he is All-NBA.
“‘Weirdo,’ Harden said, before walking out of the room once Houston’s PR staff stepped in.”
This is deeply silly, and Blinebury probably isn’t an innocent in all of this judging by the tone of his column on Harden this morning (in which he calls Harden a clown).
Harden should take motivation wherever he can get it, though.
The Blazers came in as the underdogs, but they have been the far superior team through the first two games. Going back to Portland — where the Blazers have one of the best homecourt advantages in the league — Houston desperately needs more efficient play from their best player.
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