Teams throughout the NBA are struggling to deal with James Harden‘s stepback jumper — he can hit the thing out to 28 feet, can slide left or right as he does it to create space, and if you close out on him you run the serious risk of a foul. Some teams are not contesting, the Bucks tried to turn him into a driver sitting on his right shoulder (they can get away with that since Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo were waiting in the paint), but nobody has a good answer. There’s a reason Harden has scored at least 30 points in 31 straight games.
Minnesota’s Josh Okogie did better than anyone — he blocked the shot on Wednesday night.
A lot of other Harden defenders watched that and muttered “I got called for a foul for breathing on him, there’s more contact there” and they’d be right. (Although to be fair, a lot of the closeouts where guys foul Harden on the stepback are because the defenders take away his landing spot, they get under him, and that is a foul.)
Not a lot of teams can try to pick up on the Timberwolves style here because there are a limited number of players with the length and athleticism of Okogie.
Harden still got 42 on the night, but the Timberwolves got the win 121-111.