James Harden is not exactly an All-Defensive-caliber player. As a matter of fact, his defense has been one of the most heavily-criticized aspects of his game. Well, the Brooklyn Nets star just proved all his haters wrong with this masterful defensive effort on Giannis Antetokoumpo.
Game 5 of the Nets-Bucks series came down the wire on Tuesday night, and at one point late in the fourth period, Giannis was isolated with Harden in the post. Landry Shamet rushed to double-team Giannis — an offer Harden ardently refused:
Giannis going against James Harden in the post one-on-one? That sounds like an easy deuce for the former back-to-back MVP. Well, Harden clearly had other plans.
The Nets guard did an outstanding job in preventing Giannis from exploding to the rim. Harden made the right call here, with Giannis missing on a fadeaway jump shot. You could say that Antetokounmpo let Harden off the hook here a bit by opting to take a jumper instead of forcing his way to the hole, but still, you have to credit Harden for his defense (and his confidence) here.
You also have to remember that Harden was playing through a hamstring injury in Game 5. The fact that he was even able to take the court speaks volumes of just how much he wanted to help the Nets win this one. And so he did.