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George Making a Habit of Softening Harden

George Making a Habit of Softening Harden

The numbers are irrefutable. The trend is undeniable.

James Harden, regarded as one of the better shooting guards in the NBA, one who was averaging 24.4 points on 45 percent shooting before Houston passed through Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday, meets his match when he faces Paul George. Meets his mismatch, actually.

Harden hit just 3-of-14 shots in the Pacers’ 114-81 victory over the Rockets, and only one of those, a three-pointer in the first quarter, came against George’s defense. He played with a sprained ankle, one he said afterward had “definitely bothered” him, but that doesn’t explain his previous struggles against the long arm of George’s defense.

Harden combined to hit just 11-of-43 shots in two games against the Pacers last season. Two seasons ago, while coming off the bench for Oklahoma City, he hit just 1-of-5 shots in his only meeting against George in the lockout-shortened season.

The unpleasant recent bottom line for Harden: four games, four losses and 15-of-62 shooting.

George, however, remains humble.

“It’s just length,” said George, who finished with 24 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. “Length bothers many players in this league, and me having a couple of inches on him (four, actually) helps out. I think that’s all it is. He’s tough, man. I was worn out there, chasing him off screens, fighting off bigs.”

George said it helps somewhat that Harden is left-handed, making it easier for him to contest Harden’s shots.

“I’m right in his pocket, usually,” George said. “But there’s a lot of difference to (Harden’s game). His kind of ability is tough for me, because he’s so good at getting your body moved and shifted in other (directions). That’s what’s so tough about guarding him.”

Harden can only imagine the results if it was easy.

About The Author

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Mark Montieth has more than 30 years of experience as a reporter, columnist, and feature writer for major media entities, and his work has been featured both in Indiana and across the country. This is his second full season contributing to Pacers.com, though he spent many years as the team's beat writer for the Indianapolis Star. Montieth also hosts a radio show called "One on One" on 1070 the Fan.

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