Nick Nurse always has a plan.
Without spelling it out, he sounded like he had something special cooked up for James Harden last night.
Nurse was asked if he was going to break out his now-infamous and tremendously ‘janky’ — according to Steph Curry — box-and-one defence with Harden in town.
“It could, it could be, it could be,” Nurse said, stalling while he decided how much he was willing to share. “I think just throw it out there, it’s a night for a box-and-one, it’s a night for a triangle-and-two against (Russell) Westbrook and Harden, maybe some variations of something else we haven’t used yet, too, might appear. We shall see what it feels like.
Then came the real tease.
“We’ve got an idea of something we’re gonna try,” he said. “We’ll see if we have enough guts to go with it and we’ll see how it goes once we do go with it.”
Nurse apparently had the guts.
Harden got picked up by multiple defenders as soon as he crossed the logo at halfcourt who trapped him hard forcing the ball out of his hands.
Through a half, Harden had only three field-goal attempts and two free throws for a total of six points.
He did have three assists, but this was not a night Harden was going to go off for 50.
By the end of three quarters, Harden had found his way into the offence and onto the boxscore in a more impactful way with 17 points, but then had to be helped off the floor and straight to the locker room at the end of the third quarter when he got tangled up in a mass of bodies and came down hard on his head. Harden did return with about eight minutes left in the quarter and looked no worse for wear.
THE ROCKETS WAY
Mike D’Antoni quite frankly does not care what you think of his Rockets’ brand of basketball.
Houston’s head coach is well aware of how a large chunk of the basketball fanbase feels about his James Harden-dominant, three-point dominant, often free-throw reliant offence.
As a reporter began to ask him about Houston’s offensive style and the importance of being aesthetically pleasing to the public, D’Antoni cut him off.
“You don’t like the way we look?” D’Antoni asked, only half jokingly. “I’ll say it for you.”
All D’Antoni knows is the offence the Rockets currently employ works and he’s not going to change to appease any number of critics.
“I don’t think it’s my job to care how it looks,” D’Antoni said, sounding amused by the line of questioning. “My job is to maximize what you have on a team. That’s what we have. We have one of the best offensive scorers ever (Harden). And when we made that decision three years ago to put the ball in his hands and it’s worked. I’m not trying to complicate it. Yeah, I think as a coach I’d love to run the guys around, the ball move, everyone wants to do that. But my job is to have this team function at the highest rate of efficiency as it can. That’s our best way.”
And who could argue that?
Certainly not Nurse.
“Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do and I said that to you in this last month because — I don’t know we were down to three or four guys that have played for us and a bunch of guys that have hardly played in this league and it was just a matter of — and you guys asked me you only had 15 assists tonight and I was like, ‘Who cares man we won the game somehow.’ “
“I would love to have 30 assists and pop it around, play the everybody touch it, share it, cut move, aggressive, all that kind of stuff, but to answer your question sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do and work with what you have out there and I think the object is the night you take the guys you got and get that group to play as well as they can together and you prepare for the team that you’re playing and you get a game plan that you think is gonna work on that night and if people don’t like watching it and you win, too bad. And if you don’t like watching it and you lose, that’s two bad things.”
So to sum up, coaches don’t care how it looks as long as they win. Clear?
D’Antoni really didn’t want to talk about the Harden dunk that wasn’t a dunk in San Antonio. It has been a few days and, while the Rockets were still hopeful that a protest filed with the league would get some results, for the most part D’Antoni was done with it and ready to move on … With the game still six days away, Kawhi Leonard’s return to Toronto is already prompting questions from the media about his first game back in Toronto. Not surprisingly, Leonard isn’t saying much at all. “I’ll be thinking about just playing against the team and wanting to win the game, for the most part,” Leonard said in that very consistent way of his. “Just really getting my ring that night … We’re there for one reason: to play the Raptors and try to win the game.” Maybe if they told him how much the rings are worth, he might be a little more excited, but we doubt it.