HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden missed 20 shots, including two in the final seconds of Houston's Game 1 loss to Portland in overtime.
Now the key word for the Houston star entering Game 2 on Wednesday night is better; he must play better, and the Rockets must be better when it comes to their ball movement.
"I wasn't really driving and attacking and being aggressive like I needed to be," he said. "I think when I get into the attack mode everything else opens up, the assists come and the easy layups come and whatnot. So I've got to be more aggressive."
The Trail Blazers know they aren't going to keep Harden from shooting. He's averaging 16.5 attempts a game this season. But their plan is to make every shot he takes as difficult as possible.
"That's what he does and we just need to make them difficult," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "We need to contest them and do as good a job as possible. ... He's going to get his shots, but we've got to find him in transition, we've got to limit his attempts at the rim, do it without fouling, all of those things."
Harden still managed to score 27 points in the opener of the first-round series. That caught the attention of the Trail Blazers, and LaMarcus Aldridge said they have to make sure Harden doesn't "go off" against them in Game 2.
The question is how they will do that?
"Just try to stay close to him because he's very good in transition," Aldridge said. "He's very good at that pull-up 3, he's good at getting to the line, just trying to make all of his looks tough and don't give him any space."
Rockets coach Kevin McHale was quick to point out that the problems his team had on Sunday certainly weren't limited to Harden.
"It was just a lot of settling for shots," McHale said. "Just looking at their faces, they were almost all hyperventilating. They were all jacked up and juiced up to go and we didn't play very well."