2019 NBA Playoffs: Harden hits shots when they count

NBA Playoff results: April 21, 2019

3. Philadelphia 76ers (112) – 6. Brooklyn Nets (108)

2. Denver Nuggets (117) – 7. San Antonio Spurs (103)

1. Milwaukee Bucks (119) – 8. Detroit Pistons (103)

4. Houston Rockets (104) – 5. Utah Jazz (101)

What happened in the Playoffs today:

1. Harden leads Rockets to 3-0 lead

James Harden is probably the most overwhelming force in basketball right now. Not overwhelming in the unstoppable freight train that LeBron is (or was). He’s overwhelming in the sense that everything he does affects the Rockets. He’s more than the engine of Houston. He’s the car and everyone else, fellow All-Star Chris Paul included, is there for the ride.

In Game 3, Harden almost drove his team to a Playoff loss. Harden left his offense back in Houston as the series shifter to Utah. He started the game 0-15 and just couldn’t get his shot to fall. Thankfully, the passengers did their best to keep going. Paul scored 18 points while the rest of the team knocked down 11 three-pointers to buoy the offense.

In the fourth period, Harden came alive. He slammed home a one-handed hammer for his first field goal of the game. Then late in the game, Harden took over. He drilled a side-step three to give the Rockets a two-point lead with a little over a minute left in the game. He then nailed two free throws a possession later to give Houston a four-point lead.

In contrast, the Jazz hitched their wagon on their young star, Donovan Mitchell. He also had an off shooting night. But they were able to keep in step with the Rockets because of Harden’s off game.

In the dying seconds of the game, Mitchell had a chance to tie the game as the Jazz ran a perfect play that got him a wide open look at the hoop. Spida missed and the Rockets and the Jazz are now in the brink of elimination.

Harden proved today that it’s not alway about how many points you tally (Though that’s important too.). But sometimes it’s about when you get these points. Even if he missed his first 15 shots and 17 of the 20 he took, Harden still finished with 22 points.

He made an impact in the game by making plays for his teammates and hitting buckets at the right times. That’s why Harden is an MVP candidate. He continues to overwhelm the offense and now the Rockets have an overwhelming 3-0 lead over the Jazz.

2. Philly vs. Brooklyn, Round 4

There’s no love lost between the Sixers and Nets. After back and forth taunting on and off the court in the last two games, Game 4 was going to be wild. And it was.

Jared Dudley made up for his airball in Game 3 by hitting two treys for eight points. The bench went wild after one of his three-pointers and he raised his hands the same way Ben Simmons did after his airball.

Unfortunately, Dudley took it a step too far and got into a shoving match with Joel Embiid after a hard foul on Jarrett Allen. The scrum spilled over to the stands. Dudley and Jimmy Butler were ejected from the game.

The game was heated and both teams wanted to get that win. Mostly because pride was already involved. D’Angelo Russell put the Nets up by two in the final minute of the game. JJ Redick answered right back with a three-pointer to put the Sixers back up. The Nets got a stop and Russell ran a pick-and-roll play perfectly with Joe Harris to put his team back up by one.

Unfortunately, the Sixers had one more shot and one more stop in them. Joel Embbiid found Mike Scott on the left corner for a clutch three. Then they were able to suffocate Allen into a turnover to secure the win.

The Sixers now go for the series win in Game 5. They’re looking to swat down a pesky Round 1 opponent to get to the next round early.

3. The Bucks are TOO GOOD

The Bucks have been handing out blowouts since the Playoffs began. In the first two games, the Pistons were on the receiving end of two straight beatings. It was understandable. They were missing their best player in Blake Griffin and playing on the road.

In Game 3 at Detroit, Griffin returned. He was obviously still hobbled by the injury but he was by far the best player on the floor for the Pistons.

But none of that mattered. Milwaukee still trampled on Detroit for the 3-0 lead. Antetokounmpo only played 29 minutes and didn’t even shoot the ball well. Again, it didn’t matter. Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez stepped up to deliver the win.

This series is pretty much done. Let’s all look forward to the Milwaukee-Boston series and hope it’s more entertaining than this one.

Photo from Getty Images