HOUSTON -- Maybe it was the socks.
Houston Rockets guard James Harden slipped on some black and yellow socks from the legendary hip-hop group Wu Tang Clan after he recorded his first career playoff triple-double in his team's season-saving 124-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night.
Harden needed everything he could get to play because he was suffering from the flu and needed an IV the morning of the game.
"I was all right," Harden said softly. "We won, so that's all that matters."
Harden wouldn't disclose what his temperature was. When he left the interview room, he received a hug from team owner Leslie Alexander as his bodyguard held four bottles of water.
It was a well-deserved hug because Harden hadn't taken over a game in this seven-game series until this moment.
In the Game 4 loss, Harden was moved off the ball with an attempt to get him touches through screens in a half-court game. Things changed in Game 5 on Tuesday night as Harden went back to being the main ball handler on several possessions and drove the lane and attempted shots with more of a force than he did in previous games. Harden scored 26 points, snagged 11 rebounds and had 10 assists in the victory. The series is now 3-2 in favor of the Clippers
It seemed Harden played much better despite being sick.
"He wasn't feeling well all day," coach Kevin McHale said. "He wasn't feeling well at shootaround. He had a triple-double tonight, and he had a hell of a game. He had an IV this afternoon and he played a great game for us, and we needed it."
After Harden was taken out of the game with 1:45 to play, he went directly to the locker room.
He walked gingerly around the locker room once it was open to reporters and spoke quietly in the interview room.
"We knew it was a win or go home," he said. "We had a great opportunity in front of our home crowd to regain our swagger, and we did that from the beginning of the game. They kind of embarrassed us twice in L.A., so we knew we would play a lot better and we did tonight."