Trending: How to stop James Harden? Teams have no answer yet for this

Rockets Know Harden Hero Ball Isn't the Answer.

Sixers coach Brett Brown checked out the defenses that had been used against James Harden this season.

Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown checked out the defenses that had been used against James Harden this season. He examined the Raptors’ box-and-ones. He looked at the Nets’ zones and the Warriors’ and Nuggets’ midcourt traps.

“You see people force him right,” Brown said before the Rockets topped the Sixers 118-108 on Friday. “You see people double him early. You see people from time to time play him straight up, so you’re not giving him a steady diet of it. So much of what (the Rockets) do is generated from the attention that people give James and the rest of the people take advantage of it.”

James Harden, after making a 3-pointer against the 76ers on Friday, is finding a way to beat whatever defenses teams throw at him.
James Harden, after making a 3-pointer against the 76ers on Friday, is finding a way to beat whatever defenses teams throw at him. Photo: Steve Gonzales, Houston Chronicle

Brown considered his options, dabbled in a few but left with his defense, which excels at taking away what the Rockets do best and more often than any NBA team, defeated.

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“You’ve seen box-and-ones,” Brown said. “You’ve seen zones. You watch what Golden State did. You watch what Toronto did. I’m interested in all of it. You do your homework. We have Joel Embiid and say Golden State didn’t. We have Ben Simmons. What does that mean? You pick and choose and derive a game plan based on doing the studies. But he sure has seen a lot of different looks, especially recently.”

The 76ers allow the fewest 3-pointers in the NBA, just 9.8 per game. The Rockets average the most, making 15.6. But while Philadelphia effectively defended the 3-point line — other than Harden, the Rockets made just 6 of 20 3-pointers — Harden found the openings in the defense and picked it apart.

He scored 44 points with 11 assists, mixing his own 6-of-12 3-point shooting with lobs to Clint Capela. With that, Brown was left feeling as if there were no good options.

“Where do I begin?” Brown said. “Just his ability to create attention. You never feel comfortable that you’re close enough. (Harden) dribbles two feet over halfcourt, and you still don’t feel like you’re close enough. Then you try to get close, but he’s strong enough and good enough to go by you and then Capela gets behind your head for the lobs, and so the package is lethal.”

In his past 11 games, Harden has averaged 39.3 points on 52.7 percent shooting — 49.6 on 3-pointers. He has made at least half his shots in a career-high seven consecutive games.

Harden’s 38.6 percent 3-point shooting and 46.3 percent overall are the best of his eight seasons with the Rockets, second-best of his career.

“Just because of the schedule, he’s gotten a little more rest,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said when asked of Harden’s run. “(With) a couple of days between some games, once he has his legs, he’s really good. When he’s a little tired, I think he comes down a little bit.”

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