James Harden knows two things: he is one of the best in the league at scoring out of pick-and-rolls, and Kevin Love struggles to move his feet quickly on defense.
Last night, Harden ran four pick-and-rolls at Kevin Love in the games final 135 seconds. He missed one pullup jumper but otherwise scored with ease against Love, who moved like he had gorged too enthusiastically at Christmas dinner.
The Wolves covered each pick-and-roll the same way: Alexey Shved sends Harden right, away from the screen and his strong hand. But Shved doesn’t really stick with Harden after Harden refuses the screen, in effect leaving him one-on-one with Kevin Love. Because Shved doesn’t contain the ball, Love has no angle to cut Harden off and twice lets him race past him to his strong left hand for the finish.
This kind of play has to worry the Wolves as they start thinking about making the playoffs. It’s in those matchups that teams really key in on deficiencies and will relentlessly pressure and weakness. Love and Shved’s pick-and-roll defense certainly qualifies.
Meanwhile, as Harden gutted Minnesota’s defense, Andrei Kirilenko stood idly by defending Chandler Parsons in the corner. One adjustment I’m sure Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman and his staff wish they could have made was to somehow involve Kirilenko in this coverage, perhaps by simply switching Shved and Kirilenko, if not by stashing Love on Delfino and putting Dante Cunningham on the screener, Omer Asik.
One imagines this is exactly what the Rockets hoped to get from of Harden — a go-to player who can run a simple, go-to set (th spread pick-and-roll) to ruinous effect.