Behind enemy lines: How do Celtics stop Harden?


BOSTON – The Houston Rockets come into tonight’s game against the Celtics with a .500 record (32-32), which is fitting when you consider the up-and-down nature of their season.

Short stretches of strong play have been followed by periods where they have struggled all season.

They have had five winning streaks of three or more games, and six losing streaks that lasted at least three games. Their longest winning streak of the season was five games back in January, while their longest losing skid was four games which they did on three different occasions.

But the one constant with the Rockets has been the play of James Harden, an elite scorer who is prone to turning the ball over quite a few times on a nightly basis.

“All five guys on the court have to be locked in,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder, who will spend some time tonight defending Harden. “We have a great game plan going into [tonight’s game]. But it takes all five guys."

Still, Houston’s success, more often than not, begins and ends with how well – or woeful – teams defend Harden.

The seventh-year guard is the league’s No. 2 scorer this season with a 29.0 points per game average.

That’s the good news, Rockets fans.

But he is also one of just three players in the NBA (Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Washington’s John Wall are the others) averaging at least four turnovers per game with him leading the league with 4.5 turnovers per game.

A big part of Harden’s game is the 3-ball. He has taken 513 this season, which ranks second in the league, and has connected on 176, which is the fourth-highest made total in the NBA.

Here are a few other areas Harden has distinguished himself this season:

· Overall field goal attempts: 1,260 (1st)

· Overall field goals made: 545 (4th)

· Overall free throw attempts: 678 (1st)

· Total minutes played: 2,422 (1st)

· Overall fast break points: 353 (3rd)

· Overall points off turnovers: 308 (3rd)

· Defensive fouls drawn: 438 (2nd)


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