James Harden: Rockets 'Can Be Way Better' After Game 1 Win vs. Thunder

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2020

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) warms up before an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP)
Kim Klement/Associated Press

The Houston Rockets scored an impressive 123-108 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Tuesday, but Rockets guard James Harden is far from satisfied.

According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, Harden said the following after the game during his interview with TNT: "As crazy as it sounds, we can be way better."

The Rockets essentially dominated in all facets as a team. They outshot OKC from the field (48.3 percent to 44.0 percent), from beyond the arc (38.5 percent to 37.1 percent) and from the free-throw line (89.5 percent to 84.0 percent).

Houston also had 25 assists to Oklahoma City's 22 and seven turnovers to the Thunder's 12. The only area in which OKC prevailed was rebounding with a 46-36 edge, although that is to be expected given the Rockets' small lineup.

The Rockets are also missing one of their best rebounders in guard Russell Westbrook, who missed Game 1 with a strained right quad.

Even without Westbrook, the Rockets were excellent in Game 1, as they led by 16 at halftime and 21 through three before taking their foot off the gas a bit in the fourth quarter.

As usual, Harden was the biggest reason for Houston's success, with a game-high 37 points to go along with 11 rebounds and three assists.

The Rockets also received major contributions from Eric Gordon, who finished with 21 points, and veteran forward Jeff Green, who came through with 22 points, six rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes off the bench.

Perhaps most importantly, the Rockets held the Thunder's key players in check. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander recorded just nine points, and Chris Paul was kept to a manageable 20 points in the Houston win.

The Rockets already looked like a potential championship-contending team Tuesday, and if they get "way better," as Harden believes they can, then they may finally reach their immense promise during the postseason.

Houston has seemingly never truly shaken off blowing a 3-2 series lead against the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 Western Conference Finals, but if it continues to play the way it did in Game 1 against Oklahoma City, it may soon establish itself as the team to beat out West.