UA-59049186-1 Choke Job In Houston - Good if it Goes

Choke Job In Houston

harden choke

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat – James Harden is a terrific young basketball player with a bright future whose career is on a Hall of Fame arc if he keeps going at this level. That being said, Harden is not above reproach. Last night, the Rockets lost game 6 at home to the Spurs and had their season end on their home floor. On it’s face, there certainly is no shame in losing in 6 games to a Spurs team that won 61 games and was superior to you all throughout the season.

There is shame, however, in the way it went down. The Rockets entered game 6 down 3-2, so clearly their level of focus and energy should have been at an all-time high. It was not. The biggest crime in all of it was that James Harden was the ring leader for the lifelessness and lackluster play of the entire team. And to add insult to injury, the Spurs were without their best player as Kawhi was ruled out a few hours before the game with an ankle injury.

Minutes after the news broke, the Rockets were instant favorites and everyone was already making plans to watch a game 7. But Harden had different plans. Plans of not showing up. Plans of quitting and hanging his teammates out to dry. Plans of getting eliminated by nearly 40 points at home to a less-talented team.

Here is a stat for you and let it sink in a minute: Harden did not attempt a shot in the entire first quarter. We are talking about a guy that averaged nearly 30 points in the regular season and is routinely one of the most aggressive offensive players in the NBA. Yet if you watch game 6, it was easy to tell that Harden was afraid of the moment. This was the worst playoff performance in the playoffs by a star player since LeBron James melted down in the 2011 finals against the Dallas Mavericks. Harden’s performance had a lot of similarities to LeBron’s as a matter of fact.

The most glaring was the fact that neither wanted to shoot the ball. Harden’s game 6 performance was clearly somewhat motivated by his horrific performance down the stretch in the previous game 5. Harden had no points in the 4th quarter and overtime of that game and compounded it with multiple turnovers which ultimately assisted in sinking the Rockets in that game. As good of player as he is, I think it’s time to look at James Harden with a raised eye as this now makes three times in his career where he’s come up conspicuously small in his team’s final playoff series.

If you go back to 2012, when Harden was with the Thunder, he actually had some big games when the Thunder beat the Spurs in 6 during the Western Conference finals. Then the Finals rolled around and Harden was completely M.I.A. He had some terrible shooting nights early in the series and then compounded it by simply not shooting and being too conservative in the final games of the series as the Thunder ultimately went down in 5 in a series Vegas and many others had them favored to win.

In the 2015 playoffs, the Rockets had made it to the conference finals to take on a upstart Golden State Warriors team. Sure the Warriors were the better team but at that point, they were new to this level of playoff success and had not arrived yet as the team we know them to be now. Harden was a complete no show in the close out game 5 in which the Warriors blew them off the floor. In that game, Harden had a unconventional double double with 12 points and 12… wait for it, not assist, not rebounds, but 12 turnovers. He played 43 minutes and only attempted 11 shots. Dwight Howard, Jason Terry, and even Josh Smith in only 20 minutes attempted more shots than him.

Are you beginning to see a pattern? I am. It is becoming abundantly clear that when the going gets tough in huge playoff games, Harden freezes up and is scared to fail. Despite being a high volume scorer, his shot attempts go way down and his turnovers go way up. I hate saying it about any athlete, but that is the definition in the sports world of choking. Until Harden proves otherwise, he has to be known moving forward as a choker in the playoffs.

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