James Harden's Defense (I Can't Believe I Typed That) Propels the Rockets Past Thunder to Win Game 7 Thriller

Illustration for article titled James Harden's Defense (I Can't Believe I Typed That) Propels the Rockets Past Thunder to Win Game 7 Thriller
Photo: Mike Ehrmann (Getty Images)

Much like former Pacers coach Nate McMillan, James Harden is world-renowned for his struggles in the playoffs. So with the coronavirus putting the league on pause for four dreary months, many believed that a well-rested Harden would finally slay his demons in the postseason.


That hasn’t exactly happened.

To counter Harden’s lethal step-back jumper, the Thunder deployed a human firewall in Lu Dort, who routinely defied the laws of physics while inhibiting Harden’s superpowers time and time again throughout the series.

So with Harden throwing up brick after brick in Game 7—he finished the game with 17 points on grisly 4-15 shooting—and Dort tormenting his ass on both ends of the floor with a career-high 30 points of his own, the entire free world expected Dort to knock down the game-winner with 4.8 seconds left on the clock.

That is until Harden did this:


I know, I can’t believe it myself. Harden played defense?! Harden made the defensive stop to win the game?! Harden actually played defense?!?!!? This is like Trump screaming “Black Lives Matter!” and becoming a board member at Color of Change.

After the dust settled and the Rockets emerged victorious after a hard-fought 104-102 win, the eight-time NBA All-Star kept it a buck.


“I played like shit,” Harden told Cassidy Hubbarth of ESPN. “I couldn’t make a shot, turned the ball over, was just doing everything that was not supposed to happen, but I just kept sticking with it. My teammates give me confidence throughout the game. Defensively, I had to make a play and I closed it out to him. Dort has been making some shots, so I wanted to get out to him.”


After Harden’s block, the remaining seconds of the game got even crazier. Robert Covington made a free throw with 1.4 seconds left to extend the Rocket’s lead by two points, only for Harden to foul Danilo Gallinari before the ball was inbounded, giving the Thunder a free throw and the ball back. But it was all for naught, as the Rockets managed to still escape with the win—much to Chris Paul’s dismay.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “This has been going on in the bubble—like the replays. They show the replays sometimes so that, obviously, it’s an advantage if you get to see the replay and then you challenge.


“We could’ve won the game, but that situation—the league knows [about my history with referee Scott Foster]. Yeah. They’re going to fine me. I said his name. Yeah. We already know the history.”


With the Thunder out the way, the Rockets advance and will face the Lakers on Friday.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for y'all to stop putting sugar in grits.


Hyperbolic Idiot Chamber

The officiating in this one wasn’t nearly as bad as the refs bailing out Miami in their game.