2018 NBA Playoffs: Harden flexes his Playoffs muscle

James Harden

Playoff results, April 16, 2018

2. Boston Celtics 113 – 7. Milwaukee Bucks 107 (Celtics lead series 1-0)

5. Indiana Pacers 98 – 4. Cleveland Cavaliers 80 (Pacers lead series 1-0)

4. OKC Thunder 116 – Utah Jazz 108 (Thunder lead series 1-0)

1. Houston Rockets 104 – 8.Minnesota Timberwolves 101 (Rockets lead series 1-0)

Playoffs April 16

What happened in the Playoffs today?

1. James Harden happened to the Timberwolves

One of the biggest thing holding James Harden back from being discussed in the same breath as his contemporaries, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry is his Playoff resume. As stellar as Harden has been in the past three seasons, he’s floundered in the Playoffs and hasn’t been able to make his mark on the biggest stage.

This year, Harden gets another chance. And if were taking into consideration how Harden played today against the Minnesota Timberwolves, then this year might be different from the previous years.

This wasn’t the dominant top-seed, home game that the Houston Rockets fans expected. The Timberwolves barely made the Playoffs. The Rockets on the other hand have looked nothing but dominant in the past few weeks. This was supposed to be a blow out, an easy win for the Rockets.

The Timberwolves were having none of that. They came ready to play. Minnesota not only stuck with Harden and the Rockets, they even threatened to win the game, taking several leads in the third quarter. With Minnesota surging, Harden stepped up and showcased his MVP form.

Harden woke up in the second half and led Houston to a tight win. He led them on a 12-0 run in the fourth quarter to build a nine-point lead. When Minny threatened again, he scored on a layup and dished a dagger alley-oop to Clint Capela to lock up the win. Harden finished with 44 points and eight assists.

Yeah. Harden has had big games in the Playoffs before. But this looked different. He looked in complete control of the team this time around. Harden dissected the Timberwolves defense time and time again, running the two man game until he got the match-up he wanted. He embarrassed several defenders including Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler. When nothing was going right for the team, he took over and carried them on his back.

This game could be a preview of 2018 Playoffs James Harden, the take over, dominant player everyone expected him to be.

2. World, meet Playoff P

Another player with a less-than-stellar Playoff history is Paul George. In the few times that George has been to the Playoffs, he hasn’t made an impact, losing out to bigger superstars in the East.

Which is why it’s surprising that in the pre-Playoff press conference, he talked about his alternate persona, “Playoff P” like it was a real thing. “Y’all ain’t met Playoff P yet, huh?” George said to the media.

Well, Playoff P came out with a bang in the game between the OKC Thunder and Utah Jazz. George erupted for 36 points on 8/11 shooting from beyond the arc. George’s outside shooting helped the Thunder out of an early hole. He drilled two treys in an 8-0 run to get OKC back in the game after falling behind 16-4. George was unconscious in the second half as he bombed the Jazz from outside to help the Thunder build an insurmountable lead.

The world is on notice. Playoff P has arrived.

3. Insanity ensues in Boston

Just watch the final 15 seconds of regulation between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.

In that span, the following happened:

– The Bucks run a great weave play to get Malcomlm Brogdon an open shot to tie the game
– Terry Rozier absolutely erases Eric Bledsoe with a filthy crossover and step back that Bledsoe just gave up playing D
– Rozier hit a go-ahead three-pointer with virtually no time left on the clock
– Khris Middleton counters with a game-tying trey from 30 feet

This game was insane. The Bucks have the talent (Giannis Antetokounmpo with 35-13-7, Middleton with 31-8-6). But the Celtics have an awesome coach to keep their injured roster moving forward (Al Horford, Marcus Morris, Jaylen Brown, Rozier all with 20+ points). This should be a fun series.

4. The MIP dominates the King

The Indiana Pacers snaps LeBrona James’ first round win streak at 21. James hasn’t lost a first round game since 2012 in an aboslute show of dominance in the Playoffs. But in today’s game, it was the Pacers that showcased their dominance.

Victor Oladipo, Indiana’s new leader filled up the stat sheet with 32 points, six rebounds, four assists, four steals and six treys. James had a finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists but Oladipo’s all-around performance overcame the Playoff trip-dub.

The Cleveland Cavaliers put up a dud in Game 1 shooting only 38.5% and 23.5% from beyond the arc. The Pacers, a team that wasn’t supposed to be here, had a balanced effort. Myles Turner had 16-8, Bojdan Bogdanovic had 15 points and Lance Stephenson added 12.

Photo from USA Today

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