James Harden shoots free throws. He shoots a ton of free throws. He led the NBA in free-throw attempts this regular season with 727. (Giannis Antetokounmpo was second with only 641.) His tendency to get to the line is not accidental. Harden's game is largely built around his ability to draw fouls and, while some fans hate it, the style is effective.
However, it wasn't so effective for Harden in the second half of Game 6 on Saturday against the Warriors. After taking nine free throws in the first half -- which the Rockets ended with a 10-point lead -- Harden didn't attempt a single free throw for the rest of the game. The Warriors stormed back in that second half to complete a 115-86 blowout and send the series back to Houston for Monday's Game 7.
"I was going to the basket." Harden said afterward. "(It's just) like that sometimes. But that won't change. I'll continue to go to the basket, continue to try to finish strong, and, you know, we'll see what happens"
It's odd to see Harden go so long without attempting a free throw. But Harden also wentwithout making one, so maybe he's simply streaky. Sometimes defenses adjust and can find ways to stop fouling a player for at least a game. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said postgame that he believes in his team's ability to defend without fouling.
"We like our defense against these guys," Kerr said. "And we feel confident that we can carry this through to Game 7 on the road and continue to make things as difficult as possible on Houston without fouling."
Harden's game is built on free throws. If he's not getting to the line, then it vastly lowers his effectiveness. He'll always find ways to score, but there's a talent to the pressure he puts on a defense when he's drawing fouls. It frustrates teams and causes them to defend differently. Particularly Rockets will need to return to the stripe for the Rockets to play on., Harden and the