Programming note: Watch "Warriors Playoff Central" Tuesday at 5 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, and immediately after Game 1 on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area Plus. Both shows will also be streamed live right here.
OAKLAND – In anticipation of their Western Conference Finals series against Houston, the Warriors have observed and studied and analyzed star guard James Harden, who finished behind winner Stephen Curry in the race for NBA MVP.
Klay Thompson generally will be responsible for containing Harden, but the Warriors on Monday made it clear that beginning with Game 1 Tuesday night they plan to use a variety of defenders on one of the league’s most explosive scorers.
One of those sure to get the assignment is veteran wing Andre Iguodala, a two-time All-Defensive team member who took a few minutes Monday afternoon to explain what makes Harden successful and what might be done to slow him.
“He’s really crafty,” Iguodala told CSN Bay Area. “And him being a lefty, it’s kind of like facing a southpaw boxer. You’re so used to facing right-handers, and you don’t want him to get to the right hand, that facing a lefty, it slips your mind sometimes.
“And then you’re worried about pick-and-rolls. They come so fast. And it’s the same with closeouts.”
Harden was the NBA’s No. 2 scorer in the regular season, averaging 27.4 points per game, second in the NBA. Moreover, his amazing ability to draw fouls resulted in an average of 10.2 free throws per game, easily the most in the league.
He also has the ability to pull up and launch from 3-point distance, or feint before stepping back beyond the arc and firing.
Yet the most remarkable component of Harden’s offensive game is his ability to go to his left even when defenders know that’s his ultimate goal. How on earth does he get away with it?
“With him, he does a good job of leaning right,” Iguodala said. “And the best way to get back to your left is to go hard right. When you’re closing out on him, he may go hard right and you thinking, ‘I can’t let him beat me there.’ And then gets right back to his left.
“He has a strong right leg bait. He’ll bounce hard on that right side, and get right back to his left really quickly. And it’s very subtle. You want to keep him in front of you, but you don’t want to give him too much space.”
Lastly, Harden driving skills include perhaps the league’s best ‘Eurostep’ move.
“That Euro is all about getting back to that right foot, really hard, and then stepping back over to that left,” Iguodala said. “He throws defenders off that way, and that’s what makes him such a unique player.”