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What to watch for in Russell Westbrook and James Harden’s second game together with the Rockets

Rockets, James Harden, Russell Westbrook

The storyline was inescapable: how would James Harden and Russell Westbrook coexist on the floor?

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey pulled off a blockbuster trade to reunite Harden with his old teammate and best friend. Westbrook and Harden are an incomparable duo, and they are two of the best players of this generation.

Yet, the questions persisted. Would they each see enough of the ball? Is Westbrook really a complementary player for Harden given his lack of efficiency from the perimeter and “bully ball” mindset? How on Earth was head coach Mike D’Antoni going to create an offensive system around such chaos?

Well, NBA fans found out what the pairing could do together on Thursday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. Needless to say, the performance only enhanced skepticism.

Westbrook was excellent, pushing the ball in transition and setting up his teammates. However, Harden struggled to find his rhythm. He finished the game just 2-of-13 from field and 1-of-8 from beyond the arc, though he made all 14 free-throw attempts. Westbrook also outshot Harden for the game.

Most notably, the Rockets squandered their lead and lost the game. Is this an omen of things to come? Or merely a blip on the radar for a long season ahead?

Here are a couple of things to watch for as the Rockets take on the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday.

“Six seconds or less”

D’Antoni said that he wants to play fast, which plays right into Westbrook’s hands. The “Brodie” was a menace on Thursday, snatching rebounds and going end-to-end to look for quick buckets.

The Rockets have the personnel to play at this tempo. Clint Capela runs the floor well, and both Eric Gordon and Tucker fill the lane as shooters. But is this the best system for Harden?

As expected, Harden did a lot of standing around when Westbrook had the ball. Though he can get out and run, he usually only starts fast breaks off of steals. Otherwise, he prefers to bring the ball up to get the isolation that he wants on the perimeter.

If Harden commits to playing at a faster tempo and running with Westbrook on the break, the Rockets could be impossible to stop. He and Westbrook both get to the rim at will, and there are shooters to space the floor.

Get each other involved

Harden fed Westbrook for a dunk on a break late in the game, a play that electrified the arena and is an instant boost for two players that thrive off of their emotion. They need to feed off of each other more often.

Westbrook was 3-of-7 from downtown, which is an extremely encouraging sign and should only make Harden more dangerous if he can continue to be an efficient shooter.

These enigmatic superstars will have to grapple with taking games into their own hands, but they were at their best when they consistently looked to make plays for one another.

The post What to watch for in Russell Westbrook and James Harden’s second game together with the Rockets appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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