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should also help Harden
Of course, Harden knows all too well that it's about how he finishes, not how he starts. Historical production in November is nice, but he'll be judged on his performances in May and beyond, his miserable recent playoff finishes fresh in the minds of critics.
Harden's finish against the Cavs wasn't a thing of beauty by any stretch. After a stretch so efficient it looks like a typo (88 points on 38 field goal attempts in the previous seven quarters), he was 1-of-8 in the fourth quarter and missed his final six shots as the Cavs rallied to almost steal the game.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Harden's shots consistently came up short down the stretch. He played a season-high 43 minutes, including the entire second half with Luc Mbah a Moute joining Paul in street clothes while nursing his own bruised left knee, leaving the Rockets with essentially a seven-man rotation. And Harden worked hard for his buckets and trips to the line -- his 14 free throws matched the Cavs' team total -- creating off the dribble possession after possession after possession. (Poor Jeff Green played perhaps the best defensive C.J. Uzomah Authentic Jersey possession of his life in the third quarter, twice denying Harden's attempts to drive, http://www.authenticslightningstore.com/-9-tyler-johnson-jersey_c-474.html only to have his eye dotted by a step-back 3.)
"I was good," Harden said, dismissing fatigue as a factor in the fourth quarter, when Clint Capela (19 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks) was the lone Rocket to score in the final 8:01. "Couldn't make a shot, but I'm good."
It's worth noting that, as clearly gassed as he was, Harden made a critical hustle play to keep the Cavs at bay. Harden missed a finger roll after a spectacular crossover dribble but managed to dig the loose ball out of a crowd near the free throw line. He immediately found Capela for a lob and and-1 finish, ending a drought of 11 straight missed field goals by the Rockets and pushing Houston's lead to four points with 1:10 remainingFor Harden, it wasn't enough to post a line in the box score that put him in rare air. He had to do some dirty work to get this win.
"We ask a lot of him, but when you've got more money than the state of Texas, you're going to be asked a lot," D'Antoni said with a laugh, referring to Harden signing the richest contract in NBA history over the summer. "That's just the way it is."
Harden's usage rate (35.2 percent) is the highest of his career, tied for the 25th highest in league history. http://www.authenticatlantabraves.com/Danny-Santana-Jersey He's averaging a career-high 29.9 points and boasts the best shooting percentages (45.7 from the floor, 40.6 on 3s) since becoming a go-to guy upon his arrival in Houston.
How did the MVP runner-up become even better at the age of 28? Harden shrugged -- "I don't know. Work." -- but Brown knows exactly how.
"He's in better shape," said Brown, a longtime friend of Harden's who trained with him in Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas and Houston over the summer. "He shredded a lot of weight. He's on a different eating plan as well. When we took care of his body this summer, you can tell on the court. He can move faster."
In theory, dropping 10 to 15 pounds should also help Harden finish the season stronger. Of course, so should adding a future Hall of Fame teammateHarden's load will be lightened when Paul joins him in the backcourt. There won't be a need to push his minutes into the 40s with one of the NBA's premier playmakers more than capable of running the Rockets' offense while Harden rests. Harden won't have to create every possession when he shares the court with Paul.
However, team insiders anticipate that Paul will have to adjust to playing off the ball much more often than Harden. The Rockets are still Harden's team. Their aspirations to emerge as legitimate title contenders depend in large part C.J. Uzomah Authentic Jersey on Harden accomplishing his goal of always being the best player on the courtWe rely on him, and we'll always rely on him," D'Antoni said. "But I do see in a week or so that we'll get Chris Paul back and take a lot of that off of him. The season's long. Tonight's focus was to win this game. Then we've gotta worry about Saturday, but we'll get through this and get Chris back and Mbah a Moute back, and then his minutes load and what we expect of him will decrease someDevin Booker was napping when an earthquake struck the Suns. At 1:44 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on Oct. 22, Eric Bledsoe sent his now-infamous tweet about wanting out of either Phoenix, or a hair salon -- or, hell, maybe both. Sixty-eight minutes later, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news: The Suns had fired Earl Watson, their head coach. Booker was still sleeping.
Meanwhile, Ryan McDonough's phone was buzzing constantly, as tends to happen when you are the general manager of a team embroiled in multiple and intertwined controversies. One notification alarmed him: a voicemail from Jeff Schwartz, the New York-based power agent who represents Tyson Chandler. "Given the way our season had started," McDonough says, "it wouldn't have been shocking if Tyson wanted to be movedSchwartz delivered the opposite message, the two recall: "Tyson is fine." He likes Phoenix, Schwartz told McDonough, and enjoys mentoring the young Suns. "It was a breath of fresh air," McDonough says.
Eight days later, at halftime in Washington with the Suns down by 12, Jay Triano, Phoenix's interim head coach, was striding down a hallway toward the locker room to address the team when he heard Chandler screaming. "That is what a playoff team looks like!" Chandler yelled at his teammates, according to Booker, Triano, and others. "We are getting punked!" He then picked up a marker, and diagrammed Phoenix's first-half defensive screw-ups on a whiteboard.
"Yeah, there were some words said that night," says Chandler. "Wherever I'm at, no matter the situation, I do my job."
The Suns rallied to win, and they are 4-5 with a blessedly normal-ish (bad) point differential since those humiliating first three games. That counts as stability for a team that has been grasping wildly for it since Amar'e Stoudemire's knee issues and the Steve Nash trade brought the official denouement of the Seven Seconds or Less era.
Triano spoke to Nash on the phone recently about what to do with his struggling young players -- almost a college team competing in the NBA. Nash http://www.officialsstlouisblues.com/Adidas-Carter-Hutton-Jersey directed the talk away from basketball. He sums up his advice this way via email: "There is no true development without competitiveness and resilience. Without those, it's just window dressing." That is what Triano will focus on in teaching Booker, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, Josh Jackson, and the rest: play hard, run back on defense, grasp the ground-level fundamentals of NBA help defense -- or come out of the gameIt can't be just skills," Triano says, reconstructing his conversation with Nash. Some coaches, including Terry Stotts, Triano's boss for four years in Portland, sometimes use cards outlining their playing rotation. Triano hasn't gotten that far, and he's not sure he will C.J. Uzomah Authentic Jersey all season. One rule governs: compete or sit.
By stripping down to the basics, the Suns hope to round out Booker's game, and unearth whatever potential exists within Chriss, Bender, and Jackson -- three top-eight picks who, along with another high pick in this draft, will largely determine whether the Suns emerge from chaos with the foundation of a winning team. The next phase of the franchise is at stake.
"That's the future of our team," McDonough says. "We hope they are the core of our team for 10 years