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May 15, 2018

James Harden

Houston, Texas: Practice Day

Q. How important is it for you all to stick to what got you here and not try to do too much after you lose the first game?
JAMES HARDEN: That's what we've been doing all year long. We went two months and maybe lost a game or two by doing what we do. So it won't change; we've just got to do it better. They did what they do better than what we do better last night. So we watched film and we've just got to do it a little harder.

Q. How do you get defensive stops better?
JAMES HARDEN: More aggressive. Know who was on the floor. Know who we can help off of. Just making their shots more tough. I think Klay [Thompson] shot 15 threes last night and maybe 10, 12 of them were open. Nick Young, you know, played, I don't know, limited minutes and had nine points. There's always baskets that we can't allow to happen.

Q. Is it fair to say that the bigger adjustments are defensive for you guys to get to?
JAMES HARDEN: Yeah, sure, yeah.

Q. Can you talk about how you up the communication? You always say that's the key.
JAMES HARDEN: Yeah, thinking this is a prime example in our first quarter. Our first quarter transition after two made baskets we don't get matched up and K.D. [Kevin Durant] hits a three, and Nick Young hits a three. That's six points right there automatically. So instead of a 29-point first quarter -- I'm sorry, instead of them having 24, 23 points, they got 29. So those are points that we can't allow, that's on us not matching up.

Q. You guys started so hot in that game. You had the lead and they were able to make a run?
JAMES HARDEN: That was the run I just told you. We gave up -- it wasn't a run where they got tough buckets. They got easy open threes. That's on us.

Q. Mike [D'Antoni] was just saying that maybe overall you have to up the intensity as a team just a little more, knowing what's at stake and you can't fall back?
JAMES HARDEN: No, no, no, yeah. The intensity's going to be even harder than it was last night. But once again, can't allow guys to get open shots. We didn't get those open shots, transition. It wasn't a fast-paced transition. It wasn't like after a turnover. It was two made baskets and they got open shots. That's what happened through the course of the game. Those points continue to add up.

Q. How much do they remove the margin? You mentioned some mistakes that they remove the margin of error, that you can't make against them the kind you can against virtually everybody you've played?
JAMES HARDEN: It's the Western Conference Finals. You know, there's four teams here for a reason. Obviously these four teams have done great things all year. You can't make the same mental mistakes like you're in a regular season.

Q. I know you're focused on Game 2 in this series, but last night, Kevin Durant was not asked this question, he just mentioned it in the answer, that they have the MVP over there. What's that mean having him talk about you in that fashion?
JAMES HARDEN: It's great, man. It's great to hear. Obviously, former MVP. I just try to put the work in, try to go out and give my team the best opportunities and chances to win the game. So last night wasn't enough. So I've got to keep our guy's swag up and that same energy that we've been having all season long. Tomorrow's going to be even tougher, but this is what we're here for.

Q. Does it make it anymore special coming from a guy like that?
JAMES HARDEN: Yeah, former teammate, like I said, former MVP, he's done some great things obviously in this league. We all know he had a great game last night. We've got to figure some things out. But it's a great feeling.

Q. You mentioned that swag. How important is it keeping that swag?
JAMES HARDEN: That's what we've had all year. That's why we're in this position. Last night at times we didn't have it. We've got to have it the full course of the game, especially playing against the Warriors.

Q. You just won two in Salt Lake. I mean, 65 wins, you know you can win on the road. But you also know going down 2-0, going into Oakland --
JAMES HARDEN: We have to worry about Game 2, man. We can't worry about nothing but Game 2 tomorrow night, executing possession by possession, and trying to do things that keep them off their rhythm. For everybody else on the Rockets trying to get our rhythm. Defensively getting stops and offensively push the pace and get open shots.

Q. You played 35 minutes; were you tired at all in that game?
JAMES HARDEN: No, I wasn't tired.

Q. Is that going to go up? Are you going to play more in Game 2 would you anticipate?
JAMES HARDEN: Yeah, I hope so. I'll play 48 if I have to.

Q. You guys have had that attitude all year. You mentioned that a little bit last night. Do you talk with the guys about having that edge?
JAMES HARDEN: Yeah, yesterday I called guys. After the game I called guys because you could just tell, as a leader, when guys aren't happy, or guys aren't moving or having the same swag. So I called guys to see how they're feeling. Some of the guys, first time being here. But I know how hard they work to get to this position, so I want to make sure that they're good and they're in a good place.

All the guys seem happy and motivated. So we watch film, we can correct some things, and tomorrow we should be better.

Q. What do you think it means, James, for guys on this team, role players particularly, to hear from you after a game?
JAMES HARDEN: It means a lot. It's not like it's the first time it happened. I call guys regular season, go eat with guys after games or whatnot. I mean, it's a great feeling. I'm sure even teammates call me because we're in this together. I can't do it by myself. We need everybody to be at their top play. So whether it's CP [Chris Paul], whether it's Eric [Gordon], whether it's Tuck [PJ Tucker], we just open up, talk about the game, talk about the things that we see, that they see from their angle. We can get better on things that they saw that actually worked and figure it out.

Q. There were a couple times in the first two rounds, I think Game 3 against Minnesota, you guys lost on the road. And Game 2 here against Utah. Both times you guys bounced back and dug in a little more. Is this obviously a case of taking it to the next level?
JAMES HARDEN: Yeah, to another level for sure. Even looking back at the Utah series, Game 1 we barely won. Game 2, we lost. Then we are like okay, we're in the semifinals, we've got to turn it up now, so Game 3 we play like we should play on both ends of the floor.

So here we are. We're in the Western Conference Finals. So we've got to play like we're supposed to be here, which we do deserve to be here. Defensively get into it, get into a rhythm, a groove, help each other out, communicate, being active. Offensively pushing the pace in transition, getting stops, and knocking down our shots.

Q. What do you take away from your time crossing paths with Klay at every level, the NBA, USA Basektball?
JAMES HARDEN: That he can shoot the ball.

Q. Just from every level in Team USA and all of that?
JAMES HARDEN: That he can shoot the ball (laughing).

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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