Then the Golden State Warriors generated turnovers and missed shots on those plays, and perhaps because Harden and the Rockets had tasted early isolation success, they seemed reticent to lay off. They went iso 45 times, the most by any team in a single game over the last five years.
“I definitely would like to get the ball more for me to be aggressive and get good looks,” said Gordon, who took 13 shots. “Offensively with everybody, we really don’t get real good looks. … We can’t isolate as much against a good defensive team. I don’t care who you are. We have some of the best isolation players out there. But against a team like that, it’s going to be too tough.”
Harden, the Rockets are looking at you.
As Gordon said, Houston has some of the best isolation players in the NBA. Harden has been solid but not spectacular this postseason by bypassing the Rockets’ offensive system and attacking his defender. In this postseason, he has averaged the most isolation plays per game in the NBA (10) with the third highest frequency rating (35.2). In those isolation plays, he’s averaging a 37.5 field goal percentage and a 42 percent scoring frequency.
For a point of comparison, there are only five players who averaged more than five isolation plays per game this postseason (LeBron James (9.2), John Wall (6.7), Russell Westbrook (5.3) and Donovan Mitchell (5.1)). James’ scoring frequency is 52.5 percent, Wall’s was 52.5 percent, Westbrook’s was 50 percent and Mitchell’s was 41.1 percent.
Harden’s efficiency on isolation plays is down in the playoffs when compared to the regular season when he also took 10 isolations per game with a 44.3 field goal percentage and a 51 percent scoring efficiency. That lack of efficiency didn’t matter when the Rockets were beating up on the Western Conference, and crushing the Timberwolves and Jazz to the tune of 4-1 in those playoffs series.
With the Warriors hitting their stride, Harden probably can’t put his head down and drive to the basket with the same volume. Gordon — and probably the entire Rockets team — seem to recognize that.
The question is, does Harden?