Just how atrocious was James Harden’s defense against the Clippers?

During Monday night’s game against the Clippers, I counted 18 times that James Harden was primarily to blame for a bad defensive possession. That’s one defensive flub for every 1.8 minutes he played. It’s hard to describe just how remarkably atrocious that is, but let me try this way: By my tally, James Harden was committing defensive flubs at a rate over 200% worse than the next worst offender (Jeremy Lin, who was guarding the league’s most vaporous ball handler).

What’s funny is that before Monday’s game I was considering devoting a post to complimenting Harden’s defense, and for good reason. I have kept a tally of credits and blames for every Rocket during four of the five games this season, and until Monday night, Harden looked to be doing some nice things defensively. He was earning more defensive credits per minute than any other Rocket save Asik and Casspi. These credits and blames are very subjective, of course, but Harden seemed to be doing a good job of challenging shots, quickly closing out, and/or forcing ball handlers to go into the strength of the defense or to go to their non-preferred hand.

So then what happened Monday night?

I don’t have a clue.

It’s one of the most bizarrely bad performances I have witnessed. I might have blamed it on not wanting to chase Redick around screens, but his defense was equally as non-existent against Dudley.

For what it’s worth, last night against Portland, I tallied “only” nine Harden defensive flubs, which gave him a much more tolerable flub rate of one per 4.5 minutes. I also credited him with five excellent defensive plays. So maybe the Clippers game was just an anomaly. Let’s hope.

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Total comments: 19
  • Dallas991 says 8 months ago

    Actually, here's probably the best description of Harden playing defense. Well written piece worth a read...

    http://nba.si.com/2013/11/11/james-harden-defensive-faults-houston-rockets/

  • Cooper says 8 months ago If mchale benched harden and we lost the game he'd never hear the end of it.
  • Dallas991 says 8 months ago

    Asking Harden to play defense is akin to asking my pet dachshund to build me a spaceship. He doesn't know how. Maybe Harden does, but he's allergic to playing it. Good examples of Harden playing defense and McHales lack of courage to yell or bench him.

    http://deadspin.com/james-harden-really-didnt-feel-like-playing-defense-la-1458995768

    http://deadspin.com/james-harden-really-didnt-feel-like-playing-defense-ag-1460950195

  • lawprofsr says 8 months ago

    I remember reading an article once about how Isaiah Thomas would seem to kind of get bored sometimes during games. That seems to me like what happens to Harden. He clearly CAN defend adequately when inclined. Since my own motivation is often sporadic at best, I'm sympathetic to that on a personal level, but since he's the one being paid the big bucks, he is going to have to figure out how to motivate himself. And that's also on McHale, who unfortunately seems to be kind of an old-school hands-off kind of coach.

  • rockets best fan says 8 months ago

    I think it's just simply, sometimes Harden doesn't have the "passion" to play defense. Last year, a lot of people gave him a pass by saying that he expends too much energy on offense. He loves to score the ball, but some games he doesn't want to do the little things it takes to win(like fight through screens, take charges, etc...). That's just my take. I could be wrong and Reddick/Dudley could just be that dominant.

    I have been slow to bash Harden for his lack of defense. I thought via his statement to commit on that end of the floor meant I would see more effort from him this year. at this point it looks like he was just blowing hot smoke. up to this point I have noticed him to often watching the ball and not his man. allowing teams to rotate players to open spots. it's time for McHale to get on hisdonkey :angry:he needs a good butt chewing

  • Jase L says 8 months ago

    Here is a post from another thread, I haven't check this but even with the 6pts on Lin one possession maybe on Parson where Lillard scored a 3pt on Parsons:

    - Jeremy leaves game at the 6:07 mark of 1st Q. (Lillard 7 pts. 0 assist,1pt from technical free throw)

    - Beverley guards Lillard til end of 1st Q. (Lillard 7 pts. 3 assist


    2nd Quarter

    - Lin starts the 2nd Q with Beverley. Beverley assigned to guard Lillard.

    - Beverley leaves at the 7:29 mark of 2nd Q. (Lillard 12 pts, 3 assist)

    - Beverley back in at the 1:58 mark. (Lillard 12 pts, 3 assist)


    3rd Quarter

    - Beverley replaces Lin at the 5:12 mark of 3rd Q. (Lillard 12pts, 4 assist)

    - Beverley finishes quarter. Lin on Bench. (Lillard 14 pts. 4 assist)


    4th Quarter

    - Both start the 4th .

    - Lin sub out at the 9:52 mark of 4th Q. Beverley still in. (Lillard 14 pts., 4 assist)

    - Lin back in at the 2:34 mark of 4th Q. Beverley still in. (Lillard 22 pts., 5 assist)

    - Lillard, Beverley out at the 1:11 mark of the 4th


    Lin gave Lillard 6 pts. and 1 assist.

    Beverley gave Lillard 15 pts. and 4 assist.


    Lillard's 1pt came from technical FT.

  • j_wehr says 8 months ago

    That's good to hear, Rahat, because that's probably what I'll be posting about next week. In case you missed it in the Portland thread, here was a little more data I shared:

    By my tally, Jeremy Lin made 3 excellent defensive plays and comitted 3 defensive flubs, and PB made 4 excellent defensive plays and committed 7 defensive flubs. And they played the same number of minutes. So yes, I had Lin as the better overall defender last night. But it's just one game (and PB's first game back).

    I think Lin has been excellent. My tally system has him as the most credit-worthy Rocket so far this season.

  • Rahat Huq says 8 months ago

    I'd be really interested in seeing more on these tallies, especially with respect to Beverley.

  • Jase L says 8 months ago

    Last year was are year of low expectation and I think Harden and the whole time was afforded the luxury of not playing defensive. This year we are a contending team, and all players must commit to defense.

    Justin, I'm not sure what exactly was your criteria behind your subjective view of the teams defense but I haven't seen an improvement from Harden, if I'm allowed to critic Parsons I'd say he has also become offensively focused and his defense has been worst this year.

    On the other hand, if I'm allowed to compliment Lin (along with Asik, Howard, Garcia, Casspi and Bev), from an eye test Lins on ball defense has been amazing. Stats may show one thing (because of rotations etc) but Lin has shut effectively shutdown a lot of his counterparts. Chris Paul is balling at the moment and only had Lin when he was in foul trouble, Lillard scored 22 but only 4-6pts when guarded by Lin. Whether it's true or false, sources (a Portland supporter) sitting behind the Portland bench was saying Lillard was complaining to the coach that he wasn't getting enough room with Lin,.

    For the team to be successful, yes Harden needs to be the offensive weapon he is, but he and the whole team must commit to playing D.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 8 months ago

    I think it's just simply, sometimes Harden doesn't have the "passion" to play defense. Last year, a lot of people gave him a pass by saying that he expends too much energy on offense. He loves to score the ball, but some games he doesn't want to do the little things it takes to win(like fight through screens, take charges, etc...). That's just my take. I could be wrong and Reddick/Dudley could just be that dominant.

  • Johnny Rocket says 8 months ago

    Harden's performance was so bad during the Clipper game that I really thought he was hurt--maybe his back was stiff and he couldn't really move. The Portland game showed that he's really fine; he just had an inexplicably terrible game.

  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago

    Chris Paul got lots of assists not because Lin defended badly but because Harden gave on defending his guys and allow Paul to pass to wide open shooters! Harden better be doing his share on deference and not hogging the ball so much. He brings the whole team when he is playing bad

    Harden's job defensively is so easy too, he knows Dwight and Asik are behind him so the bare minimum he has to do is run his man off the 3pt line and he can't even do that.

    By the way, welcome to Red94!

  • NorEastern says 8 months ago

    Insightful post. Thank you for sharing. Harden had an off game (I hope).

  • Dan the Man says 8 months ago Chris Paul got lots of assists not because Lin defended badly but because Harden gave on defending his guys and allow Paul to pass to wide open shooters! Harden better be doing his share on deference and not hogging the ball so much. He brings the whole team when he is playing bad
  • Rahat Huq says 8 months ago

    SBNation has a video if someone can dig it up. But that was easily the most embarrassing performance I can remember in a long time. The Rockets aren't going anywhere if Harden doesn't commit to defense.

  • John P says 8 months ago

    I love Harden as the face of our franchise, more so than Howard for sure, but to Howard's infinite credit, he seems to be engaged in all areas of the game and to be trying his best (even if he did get into silly foul trouble way to early in LA).
    but for Harden to truly be the face of a winning franchise he has to be lead in all areas, be committed in all areas, and give no excuses. Otherwise he is just like Amar'e or other great players who only committed to one half of the game and their teams never could take it to the championship level

  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago

    Has anyone seen those Bollywood musical romance movies where the guy chases the girl around while dancing and singing, and the girl runs behind a tree and all of a sudden it turns into a game of peek-a-boo? Everytime James Harden runs into a screen he reminds me of that girl lol

  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago

    When I saw his DRAPM improve throughout last season I thought "maybe Harden's defense has improved, I'm going to keep a close eye on his defense this season to find out". From what I've seen so far, his defense looks good one on one in iso situations (he did a solid job on Paul George) but as soon as Harden runs into a screen he just stops playing D completely and starts playing hide and seek instead--it's quite ridiculous. A guy like JJ Redick who is a master of moving without the ball, using screens with great timing, is the worst possible match-up Harden could ask for.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 8 months ago Some videos of "flubs" would help us to understand the severity of the mistake.