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James Harden breaks single-season turnover record

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James Harden pushed the ball upcourt, threw a pass behind a cutting Sam Dekker and made history.

The ball sailed out of bounds for Harden’s 375th turnover of the season. After the Rockets’ loss to the Jazz last night, Harden now has 376 turnovers and counting this season, breaking the previous record of 374 — set by Harden last season.

Russell Westbrook (348 turnovers) is also on pace to surpass Harden’s previous record.

The full leaderboard:

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Turnovers are the worst offensive outcome. Free-throw attempts lead to efficient scoring for nearly all players. Made shots are points. Even missed shots offer the opportunity for offensive rebounds.

But turnovers end possessions and often lead to high-percentage fastbreaks for the opponent.

That said, individual turnovers can be misleading.

The Rockets put the ball in Harden’s hands a ton — especially in high-leverage situations against the most tenacious defenses. As a result, a disproportionate number of Houston’s turnovers are pinned on Harden. But Harden is the Rocket most capable of protecting the ball in those moments.

Imagine Houston distributed the offensive burden in a more proportional fashion. Players like Trevor Ariza and Clint Capela would have more turnovers — and so would the Rockets. Harden harms his individual turnover numbers by handling the ball so much, but Houston is better for it.

The Rockets, though above league average in turnover rate, aren’t among the NBA’s leaders in percentage of possessions ending in turnover.

Plus, Houston plays at a fairly fast tempo, which increases its number of possessions — and opportunities to rack up turnovers.

Harden has turned the ball over every minute and 33 seconds he has possessed it. Brandon Jennings (a turnover every 1:14 of possession), Deron Williams (1:20) and LeBron James (1:25) turn it over more frequently when they have the ball. They just don’t have the ball as often.

 

And not all turnovers are created equally. Harden often pushes the pace and sometimes makes risky passes. When that works, the Rockets get high-percentage shots and draw fouls. That’s preferable to a slower, more conservative offense — even if fewer turnovers would be a benefit of the scheme.

Would Houston be better if Harden turned the ball over less while playing the same style otherwise? Yes, but some turnovers are inevitable. I doubt Harden can turn the ball over much less while still providing all the other benefits he does. The Rockets appear reasonably close to the optimal balance.

By the way, all these same arguments apply to Westbrook and the Thunder.

Rockets’ Clint Capela on Warriors: ‘I expect to beat them’

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During the 2014-15 season, Rockets star James Harden said the Warriors “ain’t even that good.”

Golden State went on to reach the last three NBA Finals, twice beating Houston in the playoffs, and win two championships.

The Rockets have since re-tooled around Harden, Chris Paul and several quality role players and are in first place. Houston looks like the biggest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference.

Rockets center Clint Capela on the Warriors, via Dave Schilling of Bleacher Report:

“I expect to beat them,” Capela says.

That’s a fine sentiment. Saying it publicly is another matter. Not even Harden did that a couple years ago. He was recorded during a pregame team huddle.

There’s a fine line between self-fulfilling confidence and providing bulletin-board material to the opponent. There’s already some animosity between the teams stemming from the Stephen Curry-Harden MVP race in 2015, and it has bubbled since. No matter how harmless Capela’s remark might have been intended to be, it’ll be met contentiously in the Bay Area.

PBT Extra Player of the Week: Victor Oladipo

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Oklahoma City traded for Victor Oladipo out of Orlando to be their third scorer, behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It didn’t exactly work out that way, Durant bolted town and when Westbrook went off Oladipo was looking for a place to fit in.

That place turned out to be the Pacers.

Oladipo has been playing like an All-Star this season with Indiana, and last week he was key in snapping Cleveland’s 13 game win streak, then turned around and dropped 47 points on Denver. For the week he averaged 35.7 points a game, shot 45.7 percent from three, plus grabbed 7.7 rebounds per game.

That will get you named the PBT Extra Player of the Week.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.