James Harden Has Absolutely Dominated the Thunder Off the Dribble

While we're all so enamored with Russell Westbrook, Harden has his Rockets out to a 2-0 series lead, and the Thunder haven't been able to stay in front of him.

Today, Russell Westbrook is the talk of the NBA world. And, needless to say, you can include us here at numberFire in that sphere of conversation, as we have already touched on how historically significant his latest triple-double performance was and why his fourth quarter was such a nightmare.

However, lost in Westbrook's big numbers and his up-and-down play is James Harden's quiet success through two games.

Maybe we're not paying as much attention to Harden because of Westbrook's incredible feats this season, including his monster triple-double in Game 2. On the other hand, it's quite possible that we've just become accustomed to the gaudy numbers Harden has put up throughout the regular season.

It's more likely a combination of the two.

While Westbrook is still averaging a triple-double (26.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.5 assists per game) through two games, Harden has seen his averages go from 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds in the regular season to 36.0 points, 8.5 assists and 5.5 rebounds in two postseason contests.

By comparison, his peripheral numbers are down, but the Beard's scoring and efficiency are on another level. So far, Harden ranks second behind Westbrook with 36.0 points per game in the postseason, and what's crazy is that he's accomplished that in 10.5 less shot attempts per contest.

How? One word: efficiency.

Quietly Dominating

To this point, Harden is near the top of the playoff leaderboard in a few advanced categories. Of players to have played at least 50 total minutes, he ranks within the top six in win shares (WS), win shares per 48 minutes (WS per 48), player efficiency rating (PER) and box plus-minus (BPM).

Harden WS WS per 48 PER BPM
Advanced 0.5 .345 33.4 13.0
Playoff Rank T-2nd 3rd 2nd 6th

Harden's WS per 48, PER and BPM are all improvements upon his regular season marks of .245, 27.3 and 10.1, respectively.

But, as efficient and valuable as these numbers suggest Harden has been, in his two games against the Thunder, Harden hasn't been shooting the lights out in the Toyota Center. He's hitting just 44.4% of his total field goals and 33.3% of his 9.0 three-point attempts per game.

So how exactly has the Houston Rockets' superstar guard been so good?

Driving, Jiving and Diving

When we think Rockets, we think three-pointers. Apparently, Harden doesn't know that.

In the Rockets' first two playoff wins of 2017, Harden has killed the Thunder using his feet.

Exhibit A:

A large amount of his damage has come via the pick-and-roll as Harden has yielded a playoff-leading 19.0 points per game in 17.0 pick-and roll situations. Here, he's utilized his shifty skills to take advantage of players less fleet of foot than he.

The pick-and-roll has also led to several isolation possessions, where Harden has excelled all the same. When the Thunder have been forced to switch a bigger player on to him, Harden has made them pay to the tune of 12.5 points per game and 1.19 points per isolation possession.

Ignore the block -- the more time and dribbles Harden has taken, the better.

Touch Time Frequency FGM eFG%
< 2 Seconds 4.5% 0.0 0.0%
2-6 Seconds 18.2% 2.0 56.3%
6+ Seconds 77.3% 8.0 54.4%

According to, with the ball in Harden's hands for six or more seconds and seven-plus dribbles on a possession, he's produced 18.5 (more than half) of his 36.0 points per game.

Dribbles Frequency FGM eFG%
0 4.5% 0.0 0.0%
2 11.4% 1.0 50.0%
3-6 15.9% 1.0 28.6%
7+ 68.2% 8.0 61.7%

It's only right then that Harden ranks first in the playoffs with 16.0 points on driving possessions. At the same time, however, Harden has hit 2.5 threes per game in both of the above situations. He shoots 38.5% and 45.5%, respectively, when touching the ball for six-plus seconds and dribbling the ball seven or more times.

The Beard's offensive balance has been instrumental in keeping defenders off balance when guarding him. And as we've been accustomed to with Harden, he's taken full advantage of his ability to draw fouls, averaging 15.5 free throw attempts per game through eight quarters.

He doesn't always force the issue, though. On his 37 total drives, Harden has passed the ball 9 times for 5 assists. Meaning for every pass he's made off the drive, it has led to a bucket 55.6% of the time.

And it goes a little something like this.

All of this says one thing -- Harden is much more valuable than a triple-double waiting to happen. He is a quadruple-threat with the ball in his hands.

Off the pick-and-roll or in isolation, he can shoot, drive, draw the foul or dish it for an easy bucket. No matter what he decides to do, it's always a good idea when it originates with the Bearded One.