The big news of the Western Conference Finals between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors right now is that Chris Paul has been ruled out of Game 6 with a hamstring injury. This obviously puts tremendous pressure on the rest of Houston’s roster to pick up the slack, and no person is facing more of that than James Harden.
That said, Harden is doing everything in his power to abstain from falling into the trap of feeling that pressure. When asked about this very thing on Friday, he verily scoffed at the notion he’s under more pressure now that Paul is out of the lineup.
“Pressure for what?” Harden said, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “It’s Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. There’s pressure on everybody.”
Harden also told reporters Friday that he was over at Chris Paul’s house until about 2:30 in the morning, “Just talking about life man. Just talking about life,” per Stefano Fusaro of ESPN.
Clearly he and Paul have developed a great relationship in the short time they’ve spent together this season, and it’s got to be tough for everyone that Paul’s not playing on Saturday, just knowing how much he’s endured over the course of his career to this point.
But back to Harden’s comments about pressure, they mirror what head coach Mike D’Antoni said just minutes earlier. He lamented Paul’s injury by saying, “I hate it for him,” while also noting this just opens up opportunities for other players to shine.
The Rockets are doing a great job of staying on the same page as they work through this frustrating circumstance. But make no mistake about it, Harden does have extra pressure weighing on his shoulders in Game 6, whether he wants to admit it or not. Paul has been the catalyst for the team’s last two wins, and now there’s the very real possibility he won’t be able to play the rest of this series, even if the Rockets come back home for Game 7.