On December 28th, 2017, the Houston Rockets faced the Boston Celtics in a game that was not really a game until the end of the third quarter. The Rockets pretty much had the game in their hands, with a lead of as much as 26 points. James Harden was doing what James Harden does: scoring a lot of points, and getting to the line. Furthermore, Eric Gordon continued to make his case for Sixth Man of the Year….again. Everything was looking great. So what happened?
The Celtics came back and made it a single-digit game with 51 seconds left in the 3rd quarter (Starting @6:40). The Rockets tried to hold them off, but it was not enough. Boston went on to hold the second highest scoring team in the NBA to only 20 points in the 4th quarter. All of the Celtics players were making the right plays on offense, and the right switches on defense. However, they still found themselves down by one with 7 seconds left to go in the game.
Then, it happened: James Harden attempts to create separation from Marcus Smart to receive the inbound pass. In the process, Marcus Smart ends up falling to the ground, and James Harden is called for the offensive foul. The Celtics went on to score on the next possession. Harden’s frustration, combined with Marcus Smart’s superb acting, lead to the same exact offensive foul, in the same exact situation. In my opinion, the referee should not have called the foul on the 1st incident. However, I hear complaints about that being the reason that they lost the game. I believe that the call is pretty much irrelevant. Here are 3 reasons why (in no particular order):
1. James Harden and Eric Gordon’s shooting
I have always firmly believed that when James Harden does not go to the line, his shooting suffers. However, he managed to get to the line, AND still shoot poorly. Harden, along with Gordon, combined to shoot 16-50 (32%). A part of me would also blame the bench for their lack of production. However, the bench had only received a grand total of 9 shot attempts the entire game.
2. James Harden’s turnovers
I had to put this in a separate category, because this has been a problem with James Harden for a while. He had even broken the record for most turnovers in a season. That is, until it was broken by Russell Westbrook last year. This is why I thought Chris Paul coming to the Houston Rockets was huge. CP3 was going to cut down the turnovers, and James Harden was going to focus more on scoring. However, Chris Paul was out, and James Harden dishes out 10 assists with 8 turnovers on the side. Old habits die hard, my friends.
3. They blew a 26-point lead!!!
Last time I checked, the referees did not clock out, and get replaced with other referees in the middle of the 3rd quarter. The same referees that were there when they built up the 26-point lead, were present when they lost it. Losing big leads will be a constantly recurring theme for the Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni. He simply does not believe in defense. It’s hard to maintain a lead when you don’t necessarily prioritize stopping the other team.
After all of this, James Harden and other Rockets players go to the media to criticize the referees. Believe it or not, referees miss calls. Almost as often as James Harden misses defensive assignments. Do his teammates go to the media to complain about HIM? I highly doubt it. The referees make mistakes, and have been under fire for questionable officiating in the past. However, maybe the Houston Rockets should be less concerned with one call, and more concerned with their character.