He’s not wrong
Don’t say James Harden doesn’t play defense. With his clutch play on D in the closing moments of Game 7 between the Rockets and Thunder, it’s likely Houston would have been the team heading home.
Down by one with a one-second difference between the shot and game clock, OKC had trouble organizing in the offensive end to get a good look at a potential game-winner. With about five seconds left, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander found a wide-open Luguentz Dort on the left wing. Harden, who had been guarding Steven Adams in the paint, sprinted out to meet Dort as he hoisted a three-point attempt and got the block.
Equally impressive was the way Harden played dodgeball to avoid letting Dort throw the ball out of bounds off of him. It was one clutch play that made up for a disappointing night on the offensive end for Harden. He finished with just 17 points (fourth most on the team, behind Robert Covington, Eric Gordon and Russell Westbrook) on 4-of-15 shooting. He made just one of his nine three-point attempts and turned the ball over four times, though he did have nine assists.
In his on-court interview after the game, Harden issued an unguarded assessment of his play: “Offensively, I played like s---. Excuse my language, but I couldn’t make a shot, turned the ball over, just doing everything that was not supposed to happen.”
Harden has been criticized for his lack of defensive effort for years. You can find several YouTube compilations of Harden acting like a matador, but he’s more than capable of turning it on when he needs to. The final two seconds of a Game 7 is a great time to do that.
“James has been playing defense,” Westbrook told reporters after Game 7. “I think if media and people actually look at the numbers—since you guys like to look at numbers—look at them and then you'll get your answers. James defends."
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