Toronto Raptors

Why Warriors' Steph Curry should chuckle at James Harden's complaining

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AP

Why Warriors' Steph Curry should chuckle at James Harden's complaining

Do the Rockets ever stop complaining?

The same franchise that used faulty math as the basis of a memo to the league in which it argued that officiating cost Houston the 2018 championship was back at it again Friday night, and some of the same principal offenders were at the center of the controversy.

No, not Rockets GM Daryl Morey. He has been in enough hot water as it is.

Instead, I'm referring to James Harden, who continues to only have himself to blame for the fact that his playing style isn't as enjoyed by the masses as some of his contemporaries.

The flopping, kicking, flailing and bending of the rules is annoying enough, but made worse by the fact that he gets away with it more often than not. This season, Harden is averaging 38.3 points per game, 8.0 more than anyone else in the league. He is also averaging 14.4 free-throw attempts per contest; there's only one other NBA player in double-digits, and only eight averaging at least half as many attempts. Put simply, he might not get all of the calls that he deserves -- no one does -- but he gets a friendlier whistle than almost anyone else.

And to Harden's credit, it wasn't the officiating that was at the center of his voiced complaint Friday night after the Rockets' last-minute loss to the Clippers -- although Houston didn't waste an opportunity to point out an apparent infraction by Los Angeles head coach Doc Rivers. No, it wasn't the officiating that Harden thought was unfair; rather, it was the ... defense?

Harden dished out 12 assists in the loss to go along with his game-high 37 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field. Consequently, the Clippers threw numerous double-teams at him to try to limit his effectiveness and get the ball out of his hands -- you know, as defenses do. And even then, there were times when he caught fire and Los Angeles had no answer for him, no matter how many bodies were thrown at him. But apparently, that didn't sit well with Harden.

"The whole season they’re running doubles teams at me," Harden told media in the locker room. "I’ve never seen that in an NBA game where you’ve got really good defenders and someone else running at the top of the key. Y’all let me know the last time you’ve seen that."

All right, who wants to tell him?

By the looks of the responses to that tweet, it appears many have already done so. The last time we've seen that? Really?

The Warriors have knocked the Rockets out of the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, including twice in the conference finals. It would be understandable if it was too painful for Harden to then watch the NBA Finals, but he can't act like they didn't happen.

Need I remind you that Toronto utilized a 'Box-and-one' defense against Golden State in the Finals, a kind of defense that is sparingly used even at the collegiate level. The Raptors assigned one player to chase Steph Curry at all times while the rest of the team played a zone defense. He was never left alone, and it proved to be a very effective defensive strategy.

And it's not like that's the only instance. Far from it. Curry, like most NBA superstars, frequently has been doubled, just as Harden is now. The difference is, Curry, nor any of the NBA greats, ever complained about it, and why would they? After all, it's a sign of respect.

Harden has been to the Finals once with the Thunder, and who knows, he and the Rockets might get back there with the Warriors at least temporarily out of the way.

[RELATED: Warriors, resigned to their fate, smart to be looking ahead]

But as long as he and Houston continue to act like they're getting the short end of the stick, they're not going to get much sympathy.

Nor should they.

Why Kings' Vlade Divac believes in Luke Walton despite slow start

Why Kings' Vlade Divac believes in Luke Walton despite slow start

The Kings fell to 2-6 on the season with Wednesday's 124-120 loss to the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena, continuing Sacramento's slow start under first-year coach Luke Walton. 

But Walton's boss still believes in him, The Athletic's David Aldridge revealed in a Wednesday column. 

“Very happy with him,” Kings general manager Divac texted Aldridge on Sunday. “His approach, communication and relationship with the players needs more time and he needs to learn about personalities but I really like what I see. It’s a process; can’t do stuff over night.”

Wednesday's loss snapped the Kings' two-game winning streak, and Sacramento trailed by as many as 14 points in the third quarter. The Kings clawed back in the fourth quarter, but never got closer than three points behind the defending NBA champions. 

Still, Walton was happy with Sacramento's effort Wednesday night and viewed the foiled comeback as a sign of progress following an 0-5 start to his first season in California's capital. 

"We showed growth again," Walton told reporters in Toronto. "I'm happy for the direction we're moving [in]. It's a tough place to play, [they're] the NBA champs and they were making a lot of shots tonight. Our guys hung in there, stayed close. A week ago, this was a game that was turning into a 25-point game. To give ourselves a chance at the end is all you can ask for, and at the end, they made shots. We missed them." 

[RELATED: Kings to face short-handed Hawks after Collins' suspension]

The Kings can still end their three-game road trip with a winning record if they beat the Atlanta Hawks on Friday before returning to Golden 1 Center for three of their next four games. 

Whether Sacramento can climb out of its early-season hole and earn a playoff berth for the first time since 2006 remains to be seen, but Walton can afford to be patient with his new team as long as Divac is patient with him. 

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 124-120 loss to champion Raptors

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 124-120 loss to champion Raptors

BOX SCORE

Running with the Champs. 

The Kings went down big early, but fought their way back on the road Wednesday against the defending NBA champions. In the end, the Toronto Raptors made plays when they needed it and came away with a 124-120 victory.

Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam put up big numbers for the Raptors' starting unit, and Serge Ibaka scored 21 points off coach Nick Nurse’s bench. 

Here are three takeaways as the Kings had their two-game win streak snapped and dropped to 2-6 to start the season.  

Let it fly

The Raptors left the Kings open on the perimeter all game long, daring them to shoot it from deep. That is exactly what Sacramento did. 

The Kings took 44 3-point attempts, tying a franchise record with 20 makes.

Bogdan Bogdanovic knocked down 6-of-11 from beyond the arc, Buddy Hield went 5-for-7 and five other Kings players hit at least one 3-pointer. 

Barnes goes big

Harrison Barnes is quietly building some momentum. The veteran forward played a team-high 38 minutes Wednesday and made the most of his time on the floor.

Needing a presence inside, the Kings routinely dropped the ball into Barnes down low. Barnes finished with 26 points on 7-of-14 shooting. He was physical against the Raptors' big front line, hitting 8-of-10 from the line.

Barnes chipped in four rebounds, two assists and a block, and he didn't turn the ball over once. 

[RELATED: Why Hield has such high hopes for Fox's bright NBA future]

Loose handles

De’Aaron Fox came into the evening averaging a career-worst 3.6 turnovers per game through the first seven contests. That number took another hit against the Raptors.

In 34 minutes of action, Fox turned the ball over seven times. He was sloppy with the ball from the opening tip, and it didn’t improve as the game went on.

Coach Luke Walton is asking a lot of his young point guard, but Fox has to do a better job of valuing the ball. Fox still managed to finish the evening with 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.