Hey, Wesley Johnson, you dropped something.Screenshot
James Harden possess some of the most ridiculous one-on-one moves in the NBA. He remains, by a wide margin, the best isolation player in the league and nothing could define that domination more directly than what happened Wednesday night against the LA Clippers.
To set the stage, recall that in January, the two teams met at Staples Center and a near brawl ensued including an attempt by some Rockets players to allegedly sneak through a "secret tunnel" to get into the Clippers locker room. The lunacy ended in a dumb loss for the Rockets, suspensions and bad blood between the two teams.
Fast forward to Wednesday night. The Rockets have won 13 straight games and the Clippers are a mess having sent Blake Griffin to the Pistons at the trade deadline, admitting their season was done (something they probably should have seen coming when Chris Paul left for Houston). Then, this happened.
With just over a minute left in the first quarter and the Rockets up 21 (you heard me), Harden pulled a step-back crossover on the Clippers Wesley Johnson, who crumpled to the floor like the bones in his legs had been removed. Not only did Harden gather himself and make the three pointer, he took a couple seconds to literally stare Johnson down before doing it.
For the Clippers, it simply encapsulates a season they would rather forget and for the Rockets, whose bench went absolutely berserk, it is simply an example of their complete and total dominance of much of the NBA.
Speaking of berserk, that was the reaction on Twitter where animated gifs and altered videos of the moment got posted at light speed. The collective gasp across the Twitterverse was only eclipsed by the same sound inside Staples Center. ESPN color commentator Chris Webber began laughing, "I lost my train of thought, man."
The Rockets won what was otherwise a forgettable game, their 14th in a row, as they head home to face one of the better teams in the East, the Celtics, on Saturday. But, the damage to the psyche of the Clippers was done and the swagger of the Rockets on full display. The Rockets didn't need to fight the Clippers anymore. James Harden destroyed them with one move.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.