Charlotte Hornets Lose To Harden, Rockets


Houston Rockets 100 Charlotte Hornets 90

I though this would be an interesting game to watch, and it did not disappoint, even if the Hornets would eventually succumb to a team with superior talent.

The game started out fast, evolving into something that probably made Hornets coach Steve Clifford very uncomfortable in the second and third quarters. However, when the final period came around, the defensive screws were tightened, and the pace slowed.

While Charlotte lost, this game is fascinating to me, just in how different these teams are. I dislike the Rockets for plenty of reasons. I dislike the way their best player, James Harden, plays the game. He flops around like a fish on each drive into the paint, begging for contact and a trip to the free throw line. The Rockets as a whole have taken an analytical approach to winning basketball games, eschewing the mid range game for three point shots, lay-ups, and free throws.

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The box scores shows exactly that, with Houston taking 35 threes, making only nine of them, while also shooting 26 free throws. Harden is a perfect example, as eight of his 20 shots came behind the line. He also went 14-16 from the charity stripe, to finish with 29 points despite shooting just 7-20.

As a team, the Rockets shot only 35-85 from the field(41%), but still scored 100 points. The game also showed why Harden is not my MVP, even if he may the award. Harden was a non-factor plus/minus wise, netting a 0 in that rating. He shot poorly, and relied on plenty of bailout calls from the officiating crew.

It is also interesting to note that despite having plenty of shooting around him, Harden had just six assists, and the Rockets as a whole had only 19 assists. The Hornets, in contrast, had 23 assists as a team despite not being know for crisp ball movement.

Charlotte also shot nearly an identical 34-83(41%) percentage from the field, and made a better percent of their three point shots(13-32). Yes, the Hornets shot 32 threes in this game, falling into the Rockets trap to run and gun. Still, by making so many threes, Charlotte kept things close in the first half.

In fact, the game was still in doubt until very late in the fourth quarter when Jason Terry hit a huge three point shot to put the proverbial nail in the coffin. Given that Charlotte was without five players due to injury, and a sixth(Mo Williams) due to rest, it is amazing that a Houston team with championship aspirations would fail to put the Hornets away early.

Especially if that team is led by the leading MVP candidate. Which brings me back to that award’s race. Harden is not a leader. He hogs the ball, and does not inspire his teammates the way other great players have done in the past. Two time MVP Steve Nash would find ways to up the play of everyone else in the game. Stephen Curry gets the best out of the other four guys on the floor.

Even Russell Westbrook‘s energy and hustle pump up his team to play their best. Harden does none of those things. In fact, you could argue his parade to the free throw line actually hurts the intensity of his fellow Rockets, as the choppy play never allows for anyone to really get into a good flow.

Still, the Rockets did pull out the victory, and national pundits in love with the sound of their own voice will only point to Harden’s 29 points and fail to truly examine his game.

Enough about Harden, what about the young Hornets who played in this game? Well, Noah Vonleh got another good chunk of playing time, but unfortunately the rookie went just 1-8 from the field for just four points and seven rebounds. Troy Daniels and Jeff Taylor both played well, as did impending free agent Bismack Biyombo.

Daniels scored 15 points and went 3-6 from behind the arc. Taylor had 16 points, with two of four made threes. Biyombo continued his contract run, scoring nine points and grabbing 13 rebounds in 30 minutes of action, while also blocking three shots and corralling two steals.

Brian Roberts led the team with 23 points, taking a ridiculous 12 three point shots, making five. Roberts also had three assists in his 28 minutes.

The Hornets presumptive leader, Kemba Walker, continued to struggle, finishing with four points on 2-10 shooting, although he did have five assists. Still, four points in 28 minutes shows that Walker is still far from the player he was prior to his knee injury. A summer of rest and rehabilitation should do him much good.

In fact, Steve Clifford thinks that these last few games are just an extension of the work that will come over the summer:

"”I think it’s a great way to jump start their summers,” Clifford said."

Next: Five Things We Learned About The Hornets