PHOTO/Getty Images-Bill Baptist
James Harden is known for being a long range bomber, a sharp shooter who can be deadly from out beyond the 3-point arc.
But where Harden really kills you is from in a lot closer. He is impossible to stop on those 15-foot, wide open set shots. Free throws they're called.
Monday night in Houston the Thunder battled the Rockets and pestered them with stout defense. Houston made just 22.7% of the 44 shots from deep the team put up. Harden made just three of his 14 tries from long range.
In the fourth quarter, after OKC battled back from a poor third quarter, the Thunder couldn't keep Harden off the free throw line. Whistles were being blown on pushes and grabs, slight touches and not quite touches even bad breath might have drawn a foul call.
Harden stepped up to the stripe 11 times in the fourth quarter alone and hit all 11 tries. In those same 12 minutes he was 1-for-5 from the field including 0-for-3 from deep. He scored more points from the foul line than any other player scored from anywhere and the Rockets withstood a late Thunder rally to win 116-112.
For the game Harden scored 40 points on 8-for-21 shooting overall, 3-for-14 on threes and 21-for-22 at the stripe. Russell Westbrook in his first game against his former teammates dropped in 21 points while adding 12 rebounds and nine assists.
It was reunion night for Chris Paul too, back in Houston playing against his former teammates. CP3 hit three 3s and scored 15 points.
Dennis Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 22 points each. Schroder also had seven assists, five rebounds and five steals while also knocking downt four 3s.
Steven Adams battled a bruised knee and finally left the game to go back to the lockerroom halfway through the fourth quarter. He ended with 12 rebounds but another tough shooting night, going 2-for-7. Nerlens Noel played extended minutes filling in for Adams and he made them count, scoring 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting.
Adams said after the game he was fine, "just a bruise mate," but his status for Wednesday's home game against Portland hasn't been announced.
More on last night's game in today's Thunder Game Report.