James Hardens brief shooting slump in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs began when he shot 2-for-18 from the field against Minnesota in Game 2. Between the beginning of Game 2 and halftime of Game 4, Harden had his worst shooting stretch of the season. And then, in the third quarter of Game 4, Harden went off for 22 points and regained the MVP form that has made him the front runner for the prestigious trophy all season long.
That temporary first-round failure is officially a distant memory after Hardens 41-point explosion on Sunday night against the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of the NBA playoffs Western Conference semis. Now it finally seems that Harden is ready to square some unfinished business with Golden State.
NBA on Twitter
James Harden erupts for 41 PTS, 8 REB, 7 AST to lead the @HoustonRockets to the Game 1 W! #Rockets #NBAPlayoffs https://t.co/kvY6ROaHCm
Somewhere between him closing out the T-Wolves and lacing the Jazz with seven treys — in the minds of some shell-shocked Jazz reporters — Harden became twice as good as last seasons NBA MVP Russell Westbrook whose legacy is suffering the debilitating effects of shooting 18-43 in a first-round playoff-eliminating loss.
Tony Jones on Twitter
Halfway through Game 1 of the Western Conference semis, and this is for certain: As good as Russell Westbrook is, the gap between him and James Harden is canyon sized. Russ isn’t anywhere near as good as Beard is
Houston didnt seem to have much trouble with Utah, but obviously hyperbole is in full swing and its up to Harden to make it truth. Harden was back on his shimmy game and he was spreading the wealth with his other court assassins. With Steph Curry back in the mix for Dub Nation, Houston is on a collision course with Golden State and they need to use this series against the Jazz to get as sharp as razors offensively and with defensive switches in anticipation of a fully loaded defending-champion squad.
NBA G League on Twitter
What a slam from @CapelaClint! @RGVVipers @HoustonRockets #GLeagueAlum https://t.co/0TTitv3n6B
The Jazz are hard-nosed competitors and Donovan Mitchell has risen to superstar status with his playoff punch. He out-Westbrooked Russell Westbrook but hes going to have a harder time out-Hardening James Harden.
Try saying that fast. You have the same odds of nailing it on the first try as Utah does of winning this series.