We could be seeing a much healthier James Harden in Saturday’s Game 3 of the Houston Rockets-Golden State Warriors playoff series.
The Rockets were reported Wednesday to be “optimistic” that their star guard’s vision will improve and that he avoided major impairment. Harden was injured in both eyes Tuesday during Game 2, when he was accidentally hit in the face by Golden State forward Draymond Green.
Harden briefly left the game, and when he returned he was in obvious discomfort, with reddened eyes. Despite wincing frequently, the reigning NBA MVP led his team with 29 points on 9-for-19 shooting, but Houston lost on the road, 115-109, and fell into a 2-0 deficit in its second-round showdown with the two-time defending champions.
Harden reportedly suffered a lacerated left eyelid. “It hurt. I could barely see,” he said.
“It’s pretty blurry right now,” the seven-time all-star added. “Hopefully it gets better day by day.”
On Wednesday, ESPN cited sources in reporting that Harden went to an eye doctor that day after returning to Houston. Tests revealed no damage to either of his corneas, and the Rockets were said to expect him to have “completely clear” vision by Game 3.
That would be most welcome news, because Houston will be facing something of a do-or-die contest. The Rockets already face a tall order in needing to win four of the next five against the Warriors to take the best-of-seven series, but no NBA team has ever successfully rallied from a 3-0 deficit.
“They did what they’re supposed to do — they won their two home games. Now, if we’re good enough, we’ll win our two home games and come back here for Game 5,” Rockets Coach Mike D’Antoni said following the Game 2 loss. “Obviously we’re going to have to play a little bit better.”
Green, who checked on Harden as the latter was heading to the locker room to have his eyes examined during Tuesday’s first quarter, spoke about the situation after the game.
“It’s not about hurting anybody out here,” the Warriors’ three-time all-star said. “So many times people forget, when a guy has an injury, you live with that every day, every second of every day. It’s not just about this game. If his eye is messed up, he’s got to live that every day. Just want to check on the guy. At the end of the day it’s bigger than basketball when it comes to injuries.”
Harden is averaging 32.0 points over the first two games of the series and 29.0 thus far in the playoffs, with 7.1 assists, 6.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals. After another stellar regular season, in which he led the NBA in scoring (36.1 points per game) and win shares (15.2, per Basketball Reference), Harden is considered a front-runner, along with the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, to again earn MVP honors.
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