James Harden’s sunsetting within the playoffs is a dependable annual pattern. Much like Punxsutawney Phil rising as an indication spring has sprung, however with darker clouds within the forecast. For what looks like a decade, Harden has disappeared into his shell as soon as the best-of-seven portion of the schedule begins. If this looks like déja vu, that’s as a result of it’s. You may join a by means ofline from Harden’s no-show within the 2012 NBA Finals to his lobotomy by the hands of the Miami Warmth in 2022.
If historical past is any indication, the belief is that Harden will go away anybody rooting for him pissed off. The warning indicators of Harden remodeling right into a playoff melanoma had been current within the remaining weeks of the common season after his explosion started to dip whereas he battled a sore Achilles. Whether or not it’s his washed Elvis health stage, his bodily ailment of the week, or simply his accelerated getting older, Harden is reliably unreliable as soon as the postseason calendar ideas off.
The place did it go incorrect?
The Sixers can survive the type of one-dimensional sport Harden delivered towards Brooklyn’s can’t-find-the-bottom-of-a-Web lineups. It received’t slide in a second-round matchup.
In Sport 1, Harden couldn’t end inside, drilling solely 1-for-8 on 2-pointers and scoring 21 factors on 23 pictures.
“I couldn’t make a layup,” Harden confessed afterward.
That’s a worrisome signal for a virtuoso who had a preternatural capacity to make defenses centered on him as the first possibility, appear to be turnstiles.
In Sport 2, Harden ran up the value of the brick, misfiring on 10 of his 13 makes an attempt from the sphere, scoring solely eight factors. Thankfully, Philadelphia’s protection clobbered Brooklyn within the second half, holding the Nets to 84 factors to mitigate Harden’s ineffectiveness.
Whereas he’s extra beneficiant, Harden nonetheless gums up the offense. Embiid doesn’t want his pick-and-roll dance associate to dip into the fountain of youth and ship prime MVP Harden performances each evening, nevertheless it’s hanging to see how far he’s fallen. Particularly in gentle of the pay minimize he took final offseason in an effort to place himself in place for a supermax extension and capitalize on the NBA’s “over 36-rule”, by setting himself up for one remaining lengthy/time period contract.
How far (and quick) the mighty have fallen
Two years in the past, Harden was touted as some of the intelligent scorers of our technology. His bag of strikes left defenses so mystified, opposing gamers assumed their regular defensive stances with hands behind their backs to keep away from sending him to the road.
This season, Harden took the fewest free throws per sport since his rookie season. The postseason, when the refs maintain their whistles, is the place Harden has tended to backside out. In his previous three playoff appearances, Harden has performed 117 straight minutes with out a journey to the charity stripe.
Main the Nets 2-0 may appear to be an odd time to complain, however you’re the loopy one for not worrying about Harden’s ticking clock. That is the sequence the place Harden needs to be flourishing and getting wherever on the ground that he needs. As an alternative, Mikal Bridges is bottling him up like a repressed emotion.
There’s a risk Harden begins catching lightning in a bottle and delivers a string of career-defining performances, however I wouldn’t depend on it.