Rockets’ James Harden, Mike D’Antoni say loss vs. Bucks a matter of not making shots
Tuesday night matchup between the Houston Rockets and the Milwaukee Bucks showed some of the glaring weaknesses of a trigger-happy team that struggled to make shots, making only 36.4 percent from the field and 30.8 percent from beyond the arc. For a second time this season, the Bucks managed to contain James Harden and Mike D’Antoni’s offense centered around his star — obscuring any sunlight by eclipsing the solar system itself.
Harden shot a pedestrian 9-of-26 from the floor and was 1-of-9 from 3-point range and 4-of-5 from the free throw line — limited from his average of 13.3 3-point attempts and the 11 nightly trips to the foul line, respectively — yet Harden dismissed the Bucks’ defensive scheme.
“None,” Harden said after the game, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “I still got my shots up. I still was aggressive. I still did what I was supposed to do. Obviously, some shots didn’t go in like every other game, but as a team, we had our shots that we got. Tonight, they didn’t go in. If they go in, it’s a different ballgame. Credit to them; they made shots.”
The duo of Eric Bledsoe and George Hill constantly shaded Harden by his left hip, forcing him to drive right or take uncomfortable shots by taking away his shooting hand. While The Beard often found open spot-up shooters as a result of the Bucks’ overplay, his teammates were unable to cash in, often rushed by sprinting weak side defenders. Houston starters PJ Tucker and Eric Gordon combined to miss 12 of their 13 3-point attempts in the game.
D’Antoni was just as dismissive of the Bucks’ strategy, which has now earned them two wins against the Rockets this season.
“When you’re not making shots, they’re going to stay on him,” said D’Antoni, referring to Harden. “He needed help from Eric or PJ to knock down shots. I’m not a big believer in them stopping James. It’s that we stop James, and that’s about it. They did what they’re supposed to do. I don’t want to take anything away from them.”
The Bucks have now shown the NBA a potential blueprint to stop Harden, though not many teams have the length or athleticism to pull it off as they do.
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