The Rockets submitted their finest defensive performance of the season “by far” in Thursday night’s 112-85 win against the visiting Denver Nuggets, according to head coach Mike D’Antoni.
Austin Rivers says Houston believes it can win the NBA championship “if we play defense like that.”
James Harden, the reigning MVP and not exactly known for being a lockdown defender, added that “it’s not difficult at all” for his team to put the clamps on opponents.
“If we play defense like that, we can win the title,” guard Austin Rivers said. “That’s what we believe around here.”
The Rockets have had the NBA’s second-best defense since the All-Star break, posting a 105.3 defensive rating.
“It’s not difficult, it’s not difficult at all,” Harden said of producing consistent defensive efforts. “I think since the break we’ve been top five in defensive. We have the ability to do it. We just have to do it.”
The Rockets switch on defense constantly, but the Nuggets weren’t able to exploit any mismatch with Nikola Jokic on Harden. Harden, who finished with 38 points in 32 minutes, has always been an elite post defender, using his strength and size to hold off bigger players, and his excellent hands and instincts to be disruptive.
“James switches on all the bigs,” Chris Paul said. “Every night. He’s been doing that all season long so it ain’t no surprise for us.”