Considering how hard the rockets had broken jazz in play 1 and 2, whose news would come out of James Harden to break a kind of postseason record during Game 3, the underlying assumption would be that it was related to scoring. It was half true on Saturday in Utah when Harden put the NBA postseason record for most missing shots without a badge, went 0-15 from the pitch to start the game.
Hardens' inability to score was a noticeable trend early on. He didn't get as many calls as he was used to, so his drive to the rim often ended in bad misses. Jazz's odd defensive strategy became even more widespread as Utah players awarded last year's MVP stood behind him to try to prevent recurring three years as he passed the halfway – so the movement was technically out as possible. That defense was by no means the only reason for all of its misses, but when it is the defensive playground in play during an opponent's scoring drought from the court, it is easy for a team to extract confidence from it. This self-confidence even meant that some crowds stopped at a player who caused officials to blow the whistle as a Pavlovian answer to any sudden movement from him.
It's not as if Harden couldn't influence the game at all. Even if he lacked shots, his presence alone forced the jazz to always regard him as a scoring threat. The harden also showed his passing abilities during this shooting drought and got plenty of help for teammates who made shots he couldn't. It also helped them have a good second point guard in Chris Paul.
However, the greatest help the Rockets got in trying to make up Harden's lack of score from the court came from the jazz itself. It's not uncommon for a star to get cold in the postseason, but when the cold star is an MVP candidate – or perhaps even the forefront of the prize – their team's chances of winning a victory are usually quite slim. The warning is, of course, that the other team should take advantage of this loss. Jazz simply couldn't. With the league's top scorer who hit blanks from the field, Jazz responded by beating 65.8 percent off the line and 29.3 percent from three. It is never a good sign when a team cannot use the player-friendly silence from the home audience to their advantage to hit multiple free throws.
It was clear that the jazz also became aware of this problem and they started to make several mental errors because of it. An already sloppy offense became even more difficult, everything was rushed and communication about defense almost flattened. The last question raised his ugly head when Utah allowed the Harden's first bucket of the game to be a lightweight down in a wide open path.
The game may well be called there and then. The harden finally scoring signaled the end of all the gifts Jazz had received from the basketball gods. Well, there were some exciting back and forth moments down the stretch, and the game still came down to the final possession. Donovan Mitchell could have sent things to overtime, but missed open three – but as soon as the seal was broken, there was little doubt about how things would end. Rocketsne would win the game 104-101, and the Hardens state line ended up as 22 points in 3 to 20 shooting (2-of-13 3PT, 14-of-16 FT), 10 assists and six steals. 19659007] As if things weren't bad enough for Utah, Harden hit the wound of the loss in his postgame interview with ESPN's Cassidy Hubbarth.
If a player is able to convincingly act when they said they had one of the worst shooting evenings in the NBA story, then speaks volumes of opponents' efforts to try to contain that player. Can just as well cancel Game 4 at this time.