Time is ticking, the game is on the line with the team a point behind, last possession of the game, a timeout is called. Coach Mike D’Antoni draws up a play, but has to make an important decision, who gets the ball and the chance to make the winning play, James Harden or Chris Paul?
When things are going well, everyone is happy. The Houston Rockets have been playing brilliant basketball, with Harden and Paul adjusting to each other’s presence better than anticipated. Both have been sharing the ball willingly and accepting the fact that they will have to work together in order to achieve the team’s goals. How though, will they decide who gets the ball in the final seconds of a close game?
Most fans will say whoever is open should get the ball, and that is true of course, but in a tightly contested playoff game, with high stakes on the line, there has to be a decision made, who should the final play be drawn up for, the perennial MVP candidate or the future Hall of Famer?
The team is definitely Harden’s, who has been there longer and is the one that carries more of the load on offense, but Harden has shown in previous playoff series to come short in the final moments of big games, a perfect example being the series against the San Antonio Spurs last year. Game 5 of that series in particular will haunt Rockets’ fans for a long time to come, as Harden was rejected in his attempt to win the game by a 39-year-old Manu Ginobili.
Currently, Harden’s field goal percentage in the fourth quarter is 27.8 percent from the field and 26.8 from three-point range, while Paul is shooting 50 percent from the field and three-point range. Harden has played in many more games than Paul and consequently has shot more than Paul in the fourth quarter, but the point is that Harden hasn’t shown to be a great player when it comes to crunch time. Paul on the other hand, has performed in the latter stages of games, just look at his game-winner vs the Spurs a few years ago in the playoffs or his 10 straight points and game-tying shot against the Utah Jazz last year.
It may be Harden’s team, and he might be the most important player for the Rockets, but the reality is, Paul has shown he can perform when it matters most. That should be taken into account when deciding who to give the ball to in a season-defining possession. With the stakes at their highest, Coach D’Antoni will have a tough decision to make, hopefully, he makes the right one.
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