A James Harden step back move left Austin Rivers staggering during the final minute of Houston's 103-100 road victory over New Orleans on Wednesday.
The Rockets' All-Star guard pulled off a vicious ankle-breaking fake with the score tied at 100 and less than 50 seconds remaining in the game. Isolated against Rivers at the top of the key, Harden used a one-dribble pull-up to create space. As it turned out: lots of space.
Rivers bit hard on the move, nearly losing his balance before he eventually stumbled backwards well into the paint. The Pelicans' second-year guard could only look on helplessly as Harden proceeded to sink the wide open jumper to put the Rockets up for good.
The Houston Chronicle reports the post-game reaction from Harden and Rockets coach Kevin McHale.
“He’s our closer,” McHale said. “He did what closers do. He closed and we needed it.”
“We drew up a play. We executed it well,” Harden said. “We run that play a lot, especially late in the game. They switched it and Jeremy gave it back to me. Teams don’t know how to guard it. It worked.”
Harden finished with a team-high 26 points (on 7-for-14 shooting) and seven assists.
Eric Gordon led the Pelicans with 35 points (on 11-for-17 shooting) and six assists.
Houston improved to 26-14 with the win; New Orleans dropped to 15-23 with the loss.
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