James Harden Hits Clutch 3-Pointer, Finally Secures First Win with Clippers
In a significant moment for James Harden as a member of the LA Clippers, he not only made a crucial shot but also secured his first victory with his new team with a series of impressive plays during crunch time. Harden showcased his skills by contributing 24 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists, delivering his finest performance as a Clipper. His outstanding performance played a pivotal role in the Clippers' 106-100 triumph over the Houston Rockets.
Putting an end to their six-game losing streak, the Clippers (4-7) demonstrated resilience by scoring 12 of the final 13 points. This comeback allowed them to overcome a 99-94 deficit with just 2:15 remaining on the game clock.
The significance of the win cannot be overstated, particularly considering that the Clippers had experienced a string of five consecutive losses with James Harden in the lineup. However, even more crucial than the victory itself is the fact that Harden is gradually regaining his form with each game. This is particularly noteworthy since he did not have the opportunity to participate in a training camp or preseason after the trade. With each game, Harden is starting to feel more like himself, which bodes well for his integration into the team and his future performances.
Harden's impressive performance included shooting 8-of-11 from the field and making crucial connections with Ivica Zubac for two significant baskets during the team's comeback. In addition to hitting the game-changing shot, he showcased his playmaking skills and ballhandling abilities in the closing moments.
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Expressing his progress, Harden stated, "I'm getting real close. I feel like I'm improving with every game, and I'm getting closer to my usual self."
The game provided a glimpse of the potential the Clippers possess with Harden on their roster. Their three primary scorers all had moments of taking control and making significant contributions. Kawhi Leonard emerged from a minor slump to record 26 points, eight rebounds, and five steals, while Paul George contributed 23 points, eight rebounds, and a crucial late-game block.
Furthermore, the Clippers secured their first victory after implementing a significant lineup change. Russell Westbrook willingly embraced the role of the sixth man, approaching head coach Ty Lue with the idea in an effort to help the team break their losing streak. Previously, Westbrook, Harden, George, Leonard, and Zubac had started the first five games of Harden's Clippers tenure. However, according to ESPN Stats & Information, those four star players had been outscored by 20 points in their 76 minutes together prior to Friday's game.
Russell Westbrook, who did not speak to reporters after the game, had a relatively quiet performance, contributing eight points, three rebounds, and two assists in just 17 minutes. This marked his lowest playing time since joining the Clippers prior to the All-Star break last season.
Head coach Ty Lue acknowledged Westbrook's decision to come off the bench, describing it as the "ultimate sacrifice" considering his caliber as a player. Lue expressed appreciation for Westbrook's willingness to make such a sacrifice, recognizing his significant contributions both in the league and to the team. This selfless act aligns with the team's collective goal of achieving high-level success.
Paul George, who had advocated for the Clippers to sign Westbrook during the previous season, acknowledged and appreciated the sacrifice made by his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate.
"It's tough with his energy and obviously there's a ton of chemistry there," George said. "We've always played well off one another, but just takes a lot for his sacrifice and what he did for us going forward to try new things out. Can't say enough just on the character of Russ and his leadership."