Jae Crowder on how Jazz can stop James Harden
Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden recorded the second-highest usage rate in NBA history this season. Remarkably, he also became the first player in over 32 years to average 36 points per game.
In a season where Chris Paul missed extended time due to injury and head coach Mike D’Antoni experimented with a variety of personnel in his rotations, Harden’s consistent excellence helped the Rockets march back towards the top of the Western Conference.
In Game 1 of Houston’s 122-90 win over the Utah Jazz, Harden poured in 29 points to go along with 10 assists and eight rebounds. So naturally, Utah Jazz small forward Jae Crowder said the defensive focus has to be on wearing Harden down and forcing him into tough shots.
Jae, on how to guard Harden better: “Everybody has to pick up their play. We have to defend him harder and better, wear him down a little bit more. He didn’t feel us enough, we didn’t wear him down enough. Game 2, we have to wear him down, give him a lot of different looks.” pic.twitter.com/jeXKy74eV5
— Eric Walden (@tribjazz) April 17, 2019
Of course, this is easier said than done. James Harden led the NBA in free-throw attempts this season, although he only got to the line twice against the Jazz in Game 1.
Harden’s body control and assortment of dribble moves makes him one of the toughest covers — if not the most challenging — in the league. But Jae Crowder suggests that Utah take a more holistic approach in their team defense, getting more physical with Harden and forcing him to work harder than usual.
While Harden and the Rockets were dominant in Game 1, the Jazz could also stand to find different scoring options in Game 2 on Wednesday night. Utah shot below 40 percent from the field and under 26 percent from three. Crowder himself shot just 1-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Still, putting the clamps on Harden and forcing him into more turnovers is likely to be a focus for Jazz head coach Quin Snyder and the rest of his squad.