James Harden on Rockets' Size: 'If You Don't Have Heart, It Doesn't Matter'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2020

Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) drives up court during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Houston Rockets superstar guard James Harden downplayed continued questions about the team's lack of size after a 112-97 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

Harden, who scored a game-high 36 points in Friday's win, said there are bigger factors than height:

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“I don’t know why people keep saying we’re small. I don’t care if you 7-feet. If you don’t have heart, it doesn’t matter.” —Harden after winning Game 1 vs. the Lakers https://t.co/gRRLDdWAwa

Robert Covington (6'7") is the tallest member of the Rockets' starting lineup, and Jeff Green (6'8") is the tallest player who saw the floor for Houston in Game 1.

In contrast, the Lakers start JaVale McGee (7'0") as a traditional center and also feature star forward Anthony Davis (6'10") and veteran center Dwight Howard (6'10") in their rotation.

The size disparity played little impact on Friday's contest as the Rockets shot 48.1 percent from the field, including 35.9 percent from beyond the arc while knocking down 14 threes, while facing taller defenders and remained even in the rebounding battle (41-41).

What Houston lacks in length it makes up for with quickness and shooting ability. The Lakers' LeBron James (6'8") said his team wasn't quite ready for the unique challenge Harden and Co. presented but that he fully expects things to change in Game 2.

"I think it's the speed," James told reporters. "They play with a lot of speed, both offensively and defensively. And you can watch it on film and you can see it on film; until you get out there and get a feel for it, [you cannot comprehend it]. That's what we did tonight. We got a feel for their speed, and we should be fully aware of that going into Game 2."

L.A., the top seed in the West, also lost the opening game of its first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers before winning four straight to advance.

Game 2 is scheduled for Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.