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(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
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Rubio ‘Not Going To Quit’ Against Unstoppable James Harden

(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

HOUSTON, Texas – It’s been a tough first round playoff series for the Utah Jazz. After another embarrassing loss to the Houston Rockets, the Jazz find themselves down 0-2 in the series.

The Rockets’ best player, the reigning NBA MVP, James Harden, has been masterful. Although it’s been just two games, he’s playing the best postseason basketball of his life, averaging a playoff career high of 30.5 points per game.

The Jazz have implemented a slew of defensive strategies to shut him down but none of them seem to be working. The man tasked with managing Harden more often than not, Jazz guard Ricky Rubio, didn’t have any answers for how to stop him but said he doesn’t plan on letting up anytime soon.

Rubio Knows His History

“It’s hard but I’m not going to quit. We’re not going to quit. We’re going to keep playing, giving him different looks. The guy scored 36 points in the regular season per game. The last one who did, I don’t know exactly, probably Michael Jordan. That says a lot,” said Rubio after Utah’s 118-98 loss on Wednesday.

That’s an impressive bit of NBA history trivia from Rubio. He’s right. The last player to average over 36 points per game in the regular was in fact Michael Jordan, who accomplished the feat in the 1986-87 season. According to Basketball-Reference.com, such a season has only been accomplished seven other times in NBA history, once by Jordan, once by Elgin Baylor, and five times by Wilt Chamberlain. Truly what Harden has accomplished this season is nothing short of remarkable, from a historical perspective.

Harden Scoring In Different Ways

What makes Harden so difficult to defend is his ability to score in a number of ways. In Game 1, the Jazz and Rubio tried to shade him by forcing him right and taking away his step back 3-point shot, which he makes at nearly a 40 percent clip (that’s a very good percentage, by the way). Okay, fine. Harden still dominated, scoring 29 points and collecting 10 assists while almost completing the triple-double with eight rebounds.

In Game 2, Rubio was still charged with the assignment of defending Harden, this time largely doing away with the shade defense, taking their chances by giving him a different look. The result was even more dominance from “The Beard.” Harden registered a triple-double with 32 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

Playing The Odds

After the defeat in Game 2, Rubio continued his thoughts, saying that the team would have to continue to play the odds and figure out what they want to concede to Harden as they can’t completely shut him down.

“He has a lot of weapons, he can read the game real well,” said Rubio. “We gave him different looks from Game 1, but still it’s hard. We’re going to keep looking for ways to stop him. We’re not going to quit. It’s the playoffs, he had a great game of course. On to Game 3.”

So far this series, Utah has not looked like itself. For a team who has largely prided itself on defense over the last few years, the ability to get stops has not been there in the playoffs. If Rubio and the Jazz want to make to a Game 5 in Houston, let alone an appearance in the second round, they’ll need to figure something out soon.

Game 3 between the Jazz and Rockets is scheduled for Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.