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    Trying to stop James Harden proving to be an exercise in futility

    Apr 18, 2019
    PHOTO: AP
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    CHICAGO - Quin Snyder double-majored in philosophy and political science at Duke, where he also starred as point guard in between classes from 1985 to 1989. He also has a PhD in basketball.

    A wunderkind, Snyder was only 32 when he became a Division I head coach at the NCAA in 1999. And he was just 48 when the Utah Jazz gave him the keys to the franchise in 2014.

    Calling Quin Snyder smart is like calling Frank Sinatra a singer. Genius is a more apt description.

    But despite his sharp analytical mind and firm grasp of X's and O's, Snyder cannot seem to solve the riddle that is James Harden.

    Throughout the course of the 82-game 2018-19 regular season, trying to stop Harden had become a near nightly affair. All 29 teams have tried, almost all have failed as the reigning MVP averaged 36.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists per.

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    In their opening-round series against the fifth-seeded Utah Jazz, Harden has led the fourth-ranked Houston Rockets to a commanding 2-0 lead, winning both playoffs games by an average of 26 points.

    And Harden is super scary, averaging a triple-double with 30.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10 assists per.

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    In Game 1's 122-90 debacle, Snyder devised a scheme where whoever guarded Harden overcompensate on the left side, goading the southpaw to go right while funneling him to the lane where a nasty rim protector, Robert Gobert, awaits.

    Harden picked that ploy apart with deft passing that led to 10 dimes and a cavalcade of wide-open looks for this teammates. More traditional defensive plots were initiated in Game 2, but that didn't work, either, as Houston raced to a 39-19 start.

    So the big question is, how exactly do you defend James Harden?

    Well, since this is Holy Week, I would suggest that praying would be a good place to start. And since we are getting religious here, maybe the Utaz Jazz can learn from the biblical tale about Samson, who lost all his powers after Delilah went berserk with a pair scissors while he was sleeping.

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    Shave that beard, and maybe, James Harden softens a bit, who knows?

    Seriously though, here's what I will do if I were coach Snyder. Please note that my only experience in coaching was in the barangay level where I guided our Banawa team to an inglorious loss in which we led by 17 late in the second half.

    Zone defense wont work against Harden because it has too many holes he can exploit. The box and 1 won't work, too, because James is surrounded by a plethora of shooters and a nimble big - Clint Capela - who has feasted on too many dunks via lobs.

    The best way to contain Harden is play him straight up one-on-one. Although The Beard has scored 61 points on 22 of 50 shooting from the field in two games, he is a career 44.2 percent shooter from the field and 36.8 percent from long distance.

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    Let Harden shoot until his arms fall off. Contest it as best you can, play the odds and live with the results. It's a much better option than watching snipers P.J. Tucker and Eric Gordon sink uncontested baskets, or Capela riding the rim after a dunk.

    Harden is the kind of dude that gives opposing coaches ulcers and hair loss, so this one-on-one thing might not pan out.

    But then again, when you're the Jazz - creamed 240-188 in two games and melting like Sharon Cuneta in a Robin Padllla movie - what's the harm in trying?

    WARRIORS WILL WIN GAME 3. The L.A. Clippers deserve our praise and admiration for coming back from a 31-point deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of their first-round series.

    But let's not get carried away here. There is no upset looming. Golden State, the top seed in the West, will win Game 3 tomorrow [Friday, Manila time] and will dismiss the No. 8 seed Clippers in five games. And here's why.

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    In that Game 2 blooper, Kevin Durant had more turnovers (9) than made field goals (5). Not gonna happen again.

    In staging the playoffs-record 31-point comeback, the Clippers shot 68 percent from the field. Not gonna happen again.

    Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell ignited the Clippers onslaught with a combined 61 points. Not gonna happen again.

    Sorry, Clippers fans. I'm not a party pooper. I'm just the voice of sanity.

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    PHOTO: AP
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