2017-2018 Houston Rocketa
Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017-2018 Houston Rockets Ran The League With CP3 And Harden

The 2017-2018 Houston Rockets were the best team in the NBA that season their star-studded backcourt was a big reason why. Throughout James Harden’s tenure in Houston, the Rockets always fielded a competitive team that was a threat to make the NBA finals. But often the team fell short of their goals. Many times it was due to Harden being exhausted the further they got into the Postseason. The Rockets never paired Harden with another Star player in the backcourt that he could share playmaking and scoring responsibilities with.

James Harden was a gifted playmaker leading the NBA in assists at 11.2 during the 2016-2017 season. But it was evident that as the rockets advanced in the playoffs Harden broke down. We witnessed it in 2015 when harden had a career-high 13 turnovers versus the Warriors in an elimination game. Then witnessed it again during the 2016-2017 NBA season where Harden was deemed a choker for his performance in an elimination game in San Antonio.

James Harden was labeled a choker because of his shortcomings in the high-stakes games but that narrative couldn’t be further from the truth. Harden as a player could already guarantee a team a ticket to the playoffs and a top ten ranked offense. After their latest post-season collapse the rockets went out and got Harden exactly what he needed. They traded for star point guard Chris Paul in the offseason and it yielded historically good results.

The 2017-2018 Houston Rockets Set Franchise Records

The rocket’s paired Harden and Paul together to form the best backcourt they’ve ever had in franchise history. The pair couldn’t have worked better together. With Paul on the court, it allowed James to excel at what he does best which was the score in isolation. Harden averaged 10 isolation possessions a game and scored 12 points per game which lead the league. Paul was right behind James scoring 5 points in isolation while also handling playmaking duties for the team when James rested. This style of isolation turn-based offense propelled the rockets to the best offensive rating in the league. The team won a franchise-record 65-17 games and they were 50-5 when Paul, Harden, and Capela shared the court together.

The rockets looked like they were the team to beat even in a league that featured a super team in the Golden State Warriors. James Harden won the MVP award and was well-rested and ready to make a run towards an NBA championship. The team made quick work of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round eliminating them in five games. Then in the next round versus the Utah Jazz, it was the Chris Paul acquisition that really paid off big time. Paul killed Utah the entire series culminating with his scoring a postseason career-high 41 points to eliminate them in five games setting up a conference finals matchup versus the Golden State Warriors.

A Healthy Hamstring Away from the NBA Finals

Before the Warriors series, Chris Paul was asked about how he felt being so close to his first conference finals with the rockets being up 3-1 on the Utah Jazz. His response was cautiously optimistic considering his past collapses in the playoffs. But nobody could see the tragedy that took place for the Rockets in the Conference Finals. Late in game five with the series tied 2-2 Paul went up for a floater and injured his Hamstring, while the rockets walked away victorious, the status of their star point guard was up in the air.

It didn’t look good for the Rockets’ that needed Paul to advance against the star-studded Warriors. It was reported that he had no explosion and couldn’t even push off the leg so there was no chance that he played in game 6. The Rockets lost in a blowout 115-86 setting up a game seven on their home court. Once again without Paul the Rockets held onto a lead in game seven at halftime. But over the course of the game, they couldn’t overcome their historic collapse of missing 27 straight threes and were eliminated.

Running it back to Mixed results

The rockets fell short of their goal of reaching the NBA Finals but many analysts believed with a healthy Chris Paul they win at least one of game 6 or 7 to advance. In the next season, the Rockets ran it back but with key losses in Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah A Moute. Chris Paul also dealt with many reoccurring injuries and the rockets only won 53 games. They were once again eliminated in the second round of the playoffs versus the Warriors. The Rockets had been eliminated by the Warriors four times in the past six seasons.

Paul and Harden Only lasted two seasons as a backcourt pair. While they were very successful on the court they didn’t seem to have the best relationship. Even once getting into a heated argument on the sideline of a playoff game versus the Utah Jazz. Their relationship was completely fractured after their second loss to the Warriors in the 2018-2019 season. Paul was blindsided being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook and that ushered in a new era of Rockets basketball.

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