NBA: James Harden the inspiration as Houston Rockets tie series

James Harden of the Houston Rockets shooting against LaMarcus Aldridge of the San Antonio Spurs. Harden scored 28 points as his team led from start to finish, with six of his team-mates also getting into double figures in the 125-104 win that tied th
James Harden of the Houston Rockets shooting against LaMarcus Aldridge of the San Antonio Spurs. Harden scored 28 points as his team led from start to finish, with six of his team-mates also getting into double figures in the 125-104 win that tied the Western Conference semi-final series at 2-2.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Houston guard plays key role as bench responds to the challenge with emphatic victory to draw level with Spurs

HOUSTON • When Houston Rockets guard James Harden had a big-scoring contribution in Game Three against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, he got little help from his team-mates, and the result was a defeat.

He often stresses his longing to get and keep his team-mates involved, and, when he scored and facilitated with aplomb on Sunday in Game Four, he was at his most potent.

Thanks to his all-around efforts and a big assist from the bench, Houston thrived on offence from start to finish in a 125-104 win over San Antonio at Toyota Centre to even the National Basketball Association (NBA) Western Conference semi-final series at 2-2.

He was superb throughout, recording game highs in points (28) and assists (12) to resuscitate an offence that went flaccid as the Spurs rolled to victories in Games Two and Three.

The Rockets hit 19 of 43 three-point attempts on Sunday, levelling the series heading into Game Five at San Antonio today.

"I just tried to play with pace," said Harden, who scored 43 points in Game Three.

"Once we got stops, just be aggressive, whether it's move to the basket or make an open pass. My body movement was key. Just push the ball. But the whole purpose was to get stops."

Guards Eric Gordon (22 points) and Lou Williams combined for 35 points off the bench for Houston, who received 10 bench points on three-of-19 shooting in Game Three.

"I thought we did a great job of having patience with their drive-ins," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said.

"Drive, kick, drive, kick instead of just throwing up a quick floater, which is kind of what they want.

"We were able to keep moving the ball, or keep moving our people and keep driving until we found the easier shot.

"And it worked."

Houston lost reserve centre Nene to a left groin injury. His status for Game Five is unknown.

Reserve guard Jonathon Simmons tallied a team-high 17 points for the Spurs, who got 16 points apiece from forwards Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Patty Mills added 10 points.

The Spurs shot a robust 49.4 per cent from the floor yet never led, overrun by a Rockets three-point barrage similar to what unfolded in Houston's Game One win.

"They made a few adjustments that we just couldn't adjust with them on the fly," Mills said.

"And it ended up leaving us (playing) soft and exposed our individual (defence), which they took the chances and just drove (on) us."

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said: "I think our defence was pretty defective."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2017, with the headline 'Harden the inspiration as series tied'. Print Edition | Subscribe