James Harden single-handedly brought the Houston Rockets back into a game that the Sacramento Kings controlled for over three quarters with an ignorant disregard for every defender that Coach Mike Malone put on him.
Whether it was Ben McLemore or Derrick Williams trying to defend Harden, the Sacramento defense could not find a way to string together stops. Harden pulled Houston back into the matchup by taking advantage of 22 Kings turnovers and pushing the ball in transition, to gain easy looks at the basket and render any Sacramento attempt at a stop null and void.
Harden had 44 points and eight assists, accounting for almost every Rockets point in the fourth quarter and overtime period. He put in a three-pointer to tie the game at 95 with 20 seconds left, part of his 14-32 shooting performance in which he granted himself nothing but clean looks.
Malone went to Rudy Gay for all of Sacramento’s production, regardless of the fact that Darren Collison had been having a much better performance with 24 points on 20 field goal attempts. Gay settled for three-point looks that were contested by big men instead of attacking the basket, even though he was consistently given mismatches against Donatas Motiejunas. Sacramento’s offense was stagnant, and all forms of ball movement halted completely with Gay’s ball-stopping tendency down the stretch.
Patrick Beverley and Rudy Gay received a double-technical after Beverley fouled Gay and shoved him under the basket, continuously playing his role as an aggressor searching for confrontation. This wasn’t likely the spawn of Gay’s poor performance, but he seemed unlike himself on the offensive side of the ball.
With seconds left in regulation and the game tied at 95, Sacramento gave the ball to Gay who elected to take a tough mid-range jumper rather than attempting to drive to the basket. He gave himself a relatively good look that rimmed out, but he did not utilize a screen to give himself space, even though Jason Thompson was on the floor and has been setting Gay up on screens to free room all season.
The Kings shied away from the transition, high-speed offense that had been working so well for them early in the game for half-court sets that lacked ball movement and ended with highly contested jumpers from Gay, who shot the ball 18 times.
Ben McLemore had a strong performance as he has done more and more as of late, as he put in 21 points and hit two three-pointers.
Derrick Williams gave the Kings 17 points off the bench with five rebounds. He shot 5-12 from the field.
Harden went 13-15 from the free-throw line and his 44 points were the game’s highest.