James Harden was playing perfect basketball through the first two games of this season after being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He averaged 41 points per game while shooting over 64 percent from the field as the Houston Rockets won their first two games of the season on the road. It was looking like the Thunder had made a huge mistake by trading the Beard.
Harden wouldn’t torture Thunder fans in his third game of the year, Houston’s home-opener vs. the Portland Trail Blazers.
Harden scored 24 points as the Rockets lost 95-85 in overtime. He went 8-for-24 from the field, 1-for-6 from three and 7-for-10 from the line. He added five assists, six rebounds and five turnovers.
You could make the case that Harden’s huge season-opener in which he and 37 points and 12 assists wasn’t something he could keep up since it came against the Detroit Pistons. But then just two nights later he scored a career-high 45 vs. the Hawks who are not considered as bad of a team as Detroit.
Portland was more prepared for what Harden did. They play a physical brand of defense with Wesley Matthews most times matched up on Harden. The plan when trying to stop Harden is to double him when he comes off the pick and take the ball out of his hands.
Portland executed this for the most part and took Harden out of his rhythm. It forced other Houston players to step up and they simply could not do enough to get the win.
We saw the fantastic from Harden in the first two games of the season and last night we saw the bad. He will have more nights like this, when he plays good defenses that take away his two or three offensive dimensions.
Thunder fans take breathe a sigh of relief. There was a moment there where it looked like Harden would morph into one of the league’s best players and this would go down as one of the worst trades in history.
It won’t all be easy games for Harden, dropping 40 for his new team. There will be a lot more of last night. Harden is the man in Houston now, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook weren’t there to step in and take the pressure off him.