How did J.J. Redick defend James Harden so well?

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A season and a half ago, approximately eight years into his NBA career, J.J. Redick found a way to contribute in ways that expanded his role as off-the-bench, three-point sniper.

Despite his Los Angeles Clippers team losing to the Houston Rockets in the second round, Redick displayed a dimension that was totally unexpected: defense. Not just that, but defense against a player that’s one of the most unstoppable players in the NBA.

Yes, J.J. Redick just didn’t do a good job defending James Harden one-on-one, but dare I say, he played him as well as any player I’ve seen defend Houston’s leader. So how did Redick do it? ESPN explained some of Redick’s tactics against Harden:

“(Harden) interprets size and length as merely a bigger strike zone for drawing contact. Aggressive defense gets faked into aggressively pursuing nothing or into fouling its focus.” This is why J.J. Redick did such a counterintuitively good job on Harden last series. Redick isn’t long and isn’t experienced in pressuring the ball. So, he positioned himself in front of his mark, gave Harden some room and stayed keyed on where his torso moved. When Harden attempted to draw contact, Redick whipped his hands up and away, like he was playing bloody knuckles.

May 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles against Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick (4) in the first quarter in game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs. at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Redick himself goes a little deeper into the Clipper’s defensive strategy against Harden.

“We know we have to stop him and limit his downhill attacks as much as possible. I’m doing the best I can to follow that game plan.” said Redick.“Specifically, I’m trying not to give him angles when he is (isolating) me. When he does get past me or get a step on me, just pull my hands back and keep him off the free-throw line.”

And the great news is when Harden is guarding Redick, he has to fight through several picks, forcing the MVP runner-up to use up energy on the defensive end.

Unfortunately for Redick and the Clippers, Houston’s x-factors Corey Brewer and Josh Smith provided plenty of points and offense in the critical closeout game six and game seven.

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