Oh, for real? I didn't know! - Harden unaware of early shooting woes
James Harden had no idea he had started the game so badly as he reflected on the Houston Rockets' hard-fought win over the Utah Jazz in the NBA playoffs.
The Rockets prevailed 104-101 on Saturday to move 3-0 up in the best-of-seven series, the Western Conference's fourth seeds looking a safe bet to advance to the semi-finals, where a potential meeting with two-time defending champions the Golden State Warriors awaits.
Reigning league MVP Harden has enjoyed another remarkable scoring season but he went 0-for-15 in this game before belatedly finding his range, finishing with 22 points, 10 assists and four rebounds.
When informed by ESPN of his early shooting struggles, Harden replied: "Oh, for real? I didn't know that!
"I was aggressive, they were doing a good job of contesting my shots, those are shots I shoot every single day, fourth quarter they fell in, I'll keep shooting the same shots.
"[This win shows] Character. We fought, we didn't shoot the ball well, we gave up a lot of easy buckets for them, we kept fighting, no matter how bad we played for three quarters we were only down two points, we knew we had one good quarter in us and we did."
The @HoustonRockets outlast UTA on the road to go up 3-0 in the series!#RunAsOne 104#TakeNote 101— NBA (@NBA) April 21, 2019
Chris Paul: 18 PTS, 4 AST
James Harden: 22 PTS, 10 AST, 6 STL
PJ Tucker: 12 PTS, 10 REB
Clint Capela: 11 PTS, 14 REB pic.twitter.com/Iv3MC2KWyv
Chris Paul, meanwhile, was similarly unaware of his team-mate's early numbers, insisting that is not the way head coach Mike D'Antoni encourages the Rockets to think.
"I went up to him in that time-out and said 'get your swag up'," Paul said.
"He knows how we play, we don't play percentages, we don't look at how many shots you missed or made, we put the work in, that's what you work all summer for, we believe in him and we keep playing and stay the course.
"We're trying to stay the course, I had no clue James shot that, but we just keep playing.
"Who knows that? Coach puts utmost confidence in the guys to keep shooting because at the end of the day it's win the game, no matter what he shot we won the game."