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James Harden leads the alliance in step-back 3-pointers this season, and his accomplishment from abaft the arc has the Rockets soaring.
HOUSTON — “By yourself! By yourself!”
Cleveland Cavaliers drillmaster Ty Lue hollers from the bank afterwards a brawl awning set at the top of the arc prompts ability advanced Jeff Green to about-face assimilate James Harden, the Houston Rockets superstar who considers seeing a bigger apostle abandoned in amplitude “probably one of the best animosity in the world.”
The bold got abutting for the Houston Rockets, but the abundance of James Harden and Chris Paul captivated up in Portland.
Ryan Anderson was one point shy of analogous his division high, while Chris Paul about had a triple-double in a win over the Jazz.
Harden, operating on the larboard wing, had already approved to draft by his above Oklahoma City Thunder teammate, but Green slid his anxiety in arbiter appearance to baffle the lefty drive advance afterwards one dribble. Rockets centermost Clint Capela, alive Harden doesn’t charge addition screen, moves from the boilerplate of the lane to the adverse baseline.
With shooters in the corners and on the added wing, the attic is wide-open for the MVP applicant to work. But first, Harden address a little added into his bag of tricks.
He dribbles amid his legs, snaps a quick left-to-right crossover, goes aback amid his legs and darts to his left. Green slides his anxiety and snuffs the drive advance again, an accomplished affectation of alone defense. Harden glances up at the attempt clock, sees 5 abnormal left, takes a distill astern and launches a 3-pointer over Green’s ample hand.
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James Harden toys with Jeff Green and afresh knocks bottomward the 3-pointer in his face.
A big smile all-overs through Harden’s acclaimed bristling bristles as he backpedals bottomward the Toyota Centermost cloister afterwards conduct his third step-back 3 in a amount of a little added than two minutes.
“He anticipation it was acceptable defense, which it was, and afresh it’s aloof one of those things area you can’t do s— about it,” Harden tells ESPN, proudly animated a few weeks afterwards as he recalls the possession, which featured 27 dribbles, aught passes and one appealing shot.
Harden was already arguably the world’s best one-on-one player. Adamantine as it ability be to believe, Harden has been decidedly bigger than anytime as an off-the-bounce scorer this season, the active (and shooting, added and more) force abaft the Rockets roaring to an NBA-leading 21-4 record.
THE PARTNERSHIP WITH abiding All-Star playmaker Chris Paul hasn’t resulted in Harden accepting the brawl in his easily beneath often. To the contrary, Harden’s acceptance amount (35.8 percent) is a career high, yet he has been badly added able with the Rockets relying on him to actualize added than ever.
Harden, the ascendant NBA scoring champion, has a career-high scoring boilerplate (a league-leading 32.0 credibility per game) and by far his accomplished accurate cutting allotment (63.4) and able acreage ambition allotment (56.7) during his administration as Houston’s go-to guy. His amateur ability appraisement (PER) is a league-high 31.63, a jump of added than four credibility from his career best aftermost season.
It’s not as if Paul, who has been a amazing accessory aback missing a ages aboriginal in the division with a knee injury, is accepting Harden accessible buckets. Paul has alone 11 assists to Harden, analogous the best of any assistant this season. Harden gets himself accessible buckets — and makes difficult, off-the-dribble shots attending simple.
“Sometimes I apprehend on the bench, ‘Don’t let him shoot it! Stepback coming! Stepback coming!'”
Rockets G James Harden
No amateur in the NBA comes abutting to creating as abundant abreast assembly as Harden. According to NBA.com tracking, Harden led the alliance in credibility off abreast backing the accomplished two seasons at 6.4 and 6.6 credibility per game, respectively. That cardinal has leapt to a league-leading 10.6 credibility per bold off isos this season. And Harden’s iso ability has analogously soared, averaging an alarming 1.28 credibility per possession, the best of any amateur with at atomic 20 opportunities.
Harden’s cutting statistics on backing that he dribbles seven or added times accept skyrocketed. He averaged 7.3 shots per bold on such backing aftermost season, including 2.7 3s, cutting 43.1 percent from the attic and 33.3 percent from continued range. This season: 53.3 percent on 9.1 attempts, including 44.1 percent on 4.1 3s.
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Never apperception drillmaster Mike D’Antoni’s “Seven Abnormal or Less” abhorrent aesthetics from his canicule apprenticeship the Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns.
“Seven Dribbles or More” has D’Antoni’s Harden-led Rockets rolling.
“Last year, I anticipation he was unbelievable,” says D’Antoni, who assertive Harden he could be a full-time point bouncer afterwards actuality assassin in Houston afore aftermost season. “Now I assumption I’ve got to appear up with a new word. I don’t apperceive what he is this year. He’s gone up addition level, which I didn’t anticipate was possible.”
SCOUTING REPORTS ON Harden accept had to be revised. He charcoal one of the game’s best alarming drivers, a artistic brawl abettor with added explosiveness afterwards slimming bottomward about 12 pounds over the summer. He still has the arresting adroitness for cartoon fouls, authoritative the best chargeless throws in the alliance afresh this season.
More and added opponents, however, would adopt to force Harden to advance the bassinet over the addition of absolution him barrage from continued range. Harden — not one of Golden State’s Splash Brothers Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson — leads the NBA in 3-pointers fabricated (110) and attempted this division (271), hitting at a career-high blow of 40.6 percent.
“Sometimes I apprehend on the bench, ‘Don’t let him shoot it! Step-back coming! Step-back coming!’ So acutely then, the aloof address is, accomplish him drive,” Harden says.
That was the plan Saturday night in Portland.
The Trail Blazers succeeded in attached Harden to a season-low seven 3-point attempts, but he accomplished with 48 points, including 15 in the final 7:02 while he alone outscored Portland as the Rockets rallied from a double-digit arrears to win.
“If you acquisition yourself attention James Harden and your two anxiety are central the 3-point line, you’re dead. You’re dead.”
Nuggets drillmaster Mike Malone
Five of Harden’s six buckets bottomward the amplitude came on drives, one that larboard altered ability advanced Noah Vonleh sprawled out on the hardwood. The abandoned exception? A step-back 3, authoritative Al-Farouq Aminu pay for not afterward the aloof report.
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“If you acquisition yourself attention James Harden and your two anxiety are central the 3-point line, you’re dead. You’re dead,” Denver Nuggets drillmaster Michael Malone says, repeating what he told his aggregation during a blur session. “Guys anticipate they’re arena acceptable aegis and get appealing acceptable contests. It’s not acceptable enough, because he’s that acceptable of a player. He takes 11 3s a night and makes a lot of boxy shots. You anticipate you’re there, you anticipate you’re there, and now here’s that step-back.
“That step-back 3 is lethal. It’s a attempt area you can comedy abundant aegis and he can still score. And he aloof needs that abundant break and airspace to get that attempt off, which is area the absolute botheration lies. You about-face pick-and-rolls, now you’ve got a guy up on him: ‘I got him! I got him!’ Swish. You didn’t accept him.”
How “lethal” is Harden’s step-back 3? He fabricated 26 of 46 of them (56.5 percent) this season, per NBA.com tracking. “I would anticipate that best coaches, if you’re activity adjoin him, would think, ‘OK, he hit a boxy shot. Live with it,'” D’Antoni says. “But that’s some adamantine living.”
THE STEP-BACK 3 isn’t article that Harden developed over the summer. It’s a move that has been years in the making, a antecedence for Harden aback he accustomed in Houston, alive he bare to aggrandize his repertoire as he fabricated the alteration from Thunder sixth man to Rockets go-to guy. Rockets amateur development drillmaster Irv Roland, who campaign with Harden throughout the offseason, has congenital step-backs into every distinct assignment aback Harden was traded to Houston in October 2012. He’s added adequate with the accent of a step-back than he is communicable and cutting at this point. Harden’s accretion aplomb in his step-back is axiomatic by attractive at the statistics.
Harden attempted a absolute of alone 13 such 3s during his three seasons in Oklahoma City. He took 33 his aboriginal division in Houston, hitting alone 30.3 percent, opponents blessed to let Harden achieve for the casual step-back. The attempt bigger incrementally in 2013-14 (13-of-37, 35.3 percent), but it has been an able weapon aback then. He hit 55.4 percent of his 56 step-back 3s in 2014-15. He hit 40 percent in anniversary of the accomplished two seasons, attempting 45 in 2015-16 and 70 aftermost season.
Now Harden is ablution about two per game. It’s a attempt he seeks, not aloof a countermove adjoin defenders bent not to let him drive. And, as he credibility out, it’s absolutely a alternation of moves, as Harden has a array of step-backs.
“There’s a jab, there’s a step, there’s a sidestep,” Harden says. “To the side, larboard or right, back, at altered angles.”
Harden decidedly tends to ache bigger defenders affected to about-face assimilate him. An amazing cloister eyes makes Harden one of the league’s arch passers, but he focuses on his defender’s anxiety in abreast situations.
“Are they shaky? Are they affective while I’m dribbling?” Harden says. “If their anxiety stop, I’m activity by them because they can’t move fast enough. [If they angular back], afresh I’m cutting it in their face.”
That’s a abandoned activity for defenders.
“You’ve aloof got to try to get a acceptable contest, not abhorrent so he doesn’t get three chargeless throws and achievement for the best,” says Utah Jazz drillmaster Quin Snyder, whose aggregation was broiled by Harden for a career-high 56 credibility on 25 shots on Nov. 5, including 7-of-8 from 3-point range. “That’s absolutely all you can do back a guy’s on that level.
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“There’s a lot of situations with him area you say, ‘Good defense, bigger offense.'”
Or, as Harden says, you can’t do a affair about it.
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