Please don’t kill me before you read this. Give this a chance, okay? Andre Roberson is the hidden key to winning the series.
James Harden is the second leading scorer in the NBA. He’s taken more foul shots than any other player in the league and limiting him on the court could lead to a discombobulated offense for the Rockets. And that starts with Roberson.
His offense is shotty at best and his shot at times is cringeworthy. However, if Roberson gives us anything more than 2-3 points a night, it’s a win. However, if he can hold Harden under 20 points and under 30 percent from three, this could be an upset in the making.
“He uses your aggressiveness against you,” Roberson said. “He keeps you on your toes, and you gotta be all 48 minutes disciplined. No silly fouls, no reach-ins.”
In four games against the Thunder and with Roberson on the court, Harden is only averaging 16.3 points on 31.1 percent shooting from the field and a simple 15.4 percent from beyond the three-point line. If we break this down per 100 possessions, Harden is only making 1.7 threes per eight attempts. When you break it down vs. other defenders, it’s the lowest he’d shoot against any other player by far.
Without Roberson on the court, Harden is shooting 55.6 percent from the floor and 60 percent from three. Though, small sample as Roberson essentially shadows everything Harden does when he’s not in the vaunted foul trouble.
“I get to face these great players on a nightly basis, like Kevin Durant, being one of the top scorers, and he’s seen it in practice and seen our battles,” Roberson said. “For James, I don’t want to be putting him on the foul line because that way he can get going. He cannot only get a feel for the game that way, but he can get me out of the game. James is the motor of their team.”
Foul trouble has been a deciding factor for the regular season series. In Oklahoma City’s lone win, Roberson only picked up two fouls as Harden was 3-of-12 from deep and 4-of-16 overall. When you look at the March 26 loss in Houston, Oklahoma City trailed by as many as 25. Harden had 22 points and Roberson had five fouls.
Harden once again struggled even when Houston won on Dec. 9, as other Rockets were needed to get the victory that night. Again, Roberson was out of foul trouble and the Thunder played in another close contest, falling late.
It’s really the one absolutely big blow out in late March that saw Roberson’s importance come shining through. If Roberson stays out of foul trouble, frustrates Harden, the Thunder could slip this series into their back pocket and move onto the next round.
“Game 1 should be interesting,” Roberson said.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!