Houston Rockets star James Harden said he “can barely see” after getting hit in both eyes Tuesday night during the first quarter of a 115-109 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinals series.
Harden, who had bleeding in both eyes and suffered a laceration on his left eyelid, returned in the second quarter and finished with 29 points on 9-of-19 shooting as the Warriors took a 2-0 series lead.
Harden’s eyes were especially sensitive to light. He squinted and shielded his eyes repeatedly during the game and throughout his postgame news conference. He said his vision was a problem after taking an inadvertent shot from Golden State’s Draymond Green and didn’t know if it would continue to be an issue when the series resumes Saturday in Houston.
“It’s pretty blurry right now,” Harden said. “Hopefully it gets better day by day.”
Warriors star guard Stephen Curry also briefly left the game because of an injury in the first quarter, dislocating the middle finger on his left hand when he tried to tip the ball away from Rockets center Clint Capela. Curry missed a few minutes while getting an X-ray, which was negative, and a tape job on the finger.
Curry scored 20 points on 6-of-16 shooting (3-of-13 from 3-point range) in the win.
“It looked bad when he came off the floor,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I looked at the finger and I was just hoping it was a dislocation and not a break. And fortunately, that’s what it turned out to be. As far as whether it bothered him, you can ask him that. I thought he did some great things for us and fueled us, and may not have shot the 3 that well, but played a great game for us.”
Said Curry: “It hurts, but it’s all right. Didn’t break anything. Fortunate, and some higher power’s looking out for me on that one. Just gotta deal with pain and hopefully, before Saturday, that goes away and will be fine.”
Curry didn’t sound concerned the injury would limit him moving forward, especially since the Warriors will get a full day off Wednesday. Curry even joked that his block on Capela in the second half, with his injured left hand, was worth a little extra pain.
“I ain’t got a block like that in a minute, so I’ll take the pain for that for sure,” he said.
Harden was hurt when Green’s left hand smacked him in the face a little more than five minutes into the game. The contact, which did not result in a foul call, occurred while Harden was attempting to rebound his own miss after driving to the basket, with Green also pursuing the loose ball.
Harden remained facedown in the lane for the entire ensuing possession for the Warriors, who took advantage of the 5-on-4 situation by getting Kevin Durant a good look at a corner 3-pointer, which he swished. The Rockets called timeout with 6 minutes, 27 seconds left to allow Harden to receive medical treatment.
As Harden walked across the court to the Rockets’ locker room with members of Houston’s athletic training staff, Green approached him to apologize.
“I made a mistake and hit him in his eye,” Green said. “Just [wanted] to check on him. It’s not about hurting anybody out here. So many times, people forget that when a guy [has] an injury, you live with that every day, every second of every day. It’s not just about this game.”
Harden remained in the locker room until returning to the Rockets’ bench with 9:38 left in the second quarter. He checked back into the game at the 7:09 mark of the quarter. Houston managed to trim the deficit from nine to five points in the time that Harden missed.
“He got raked pretty good in the eyes, but that’s him,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I mean, I didn’t have a doubt that he was coming back unless it was something catastrophic. I’m sure he would have loved to play better. Under the circumstances, I thought he played great.”
Harden’s issues with his vision were not evident in his performance. He actually had his highest field goal percentage of this postseason (9-of-19, 47.4 percent) despite missing his first three shots before suffering the injury.
All four of Harden’s assists occurred after the injury.
“I can barely see,” said Harden, who took some eye drops to numb the pain. “Just tried to go out there and do what I can to help my teammates.”