It seems that the fervor over the run of these games of such prolific scoring caused the focus to be laid on the numbers solely and not to take into account the circumstances under which they occurred. Call me crazy but efficiency matters. Over the course of these twelve games, Harden has only shot 50% or better 3 times and only better than 45% once. The rest of the games saw Harden connect with 43% or less of his shot attempts, including two clunkers of 7-23 and 12-34 respectively. I realize that over the course of this scoring run James Harden has hit some big shots ( including that crazy game winner against the Warriors), but games that result in a player missing 16 of their 23 shots or 22 of their 34 attempts are not to be exalted, no matter how many points the player scored. Since when is playing that inefficiently touted as MVP-caliber play?
The Rockets “offense” is essentially James Harden dribbling the air out of the ball and shooting a step-back and occasionally one of the other players shooting a three pointer. Harden is the Rockets best player and it makes sense that teams would want to put the ball in their best player or players’ hands as much as possible ( even moreso with the Chris Paul injury) but it should not come at the cost of offensive continuity. To unpack this, observe what the other four Houston Rocket players are usually doing while James Harden is at the top of the key doing his dance- which is nothing. There is so little movement off ball from the Rockets not named Harden that those other four players may as well be added to the attendance figures for that night’s game because they are spectators along with the rest of the crowd. The Beard leads the NBA in usage rate at 38.8 (which is higher than both Lebron James and Russell Westbrook who both have a rate of 31.2), but during this scoring streak his rate increased to an average of 39.0, including an astronomical 57.8 against the Portland Trailblazers.
As critical as I seem to be on how these numbers that are being complied, the Rockets have actually 10 of these twelve games. Considering the 9-11 start the team got off to and combined with the aforementioned Paul injury, it is very understandable that Harden would feel the need to try to do more to try to get the Rockets season back on track. As the Rockets are now up to fifth in the Western Conference playing this brand of basketball, it is just going to bolster the stance to continue to play this way, though it seems the Rockets could be on a path to wearing Harden down before they will really need him to be the superstar he is.
A clinical examination of these factors it becomes clear as to what were the driving forces , that and Harden’s immense talent, to produce these streak. High usage combined with shotjacking sets the stage for these numbers to be produced. While a bunch of gaudy point totals looks good in a box score, the manner in which they were achieved matters. A slew of low efficiency, high scoring games is not ,or it should not be, what blazes the path to an MVP. The only saving grace for these offensive displays is that they are winning, and not against a bunch of bad teams but the likes of the Lakers, Spurs, Thunder, Celtics, and the world champion Warriors. However and unlike other outlets and personalities shot-jacking and basketball dominance will not be celebrated here. When Harden, or another player sustains this with efficient play, then we will celebrate it; we value substance and not hype.