James Harden’s sunsetting within the playoffs is a dependable annual development. Much like Punxsutawney Phil rising as an indication spring has sprung, however with darker clouds within the forecast. For what seems like a decade, Harden has disappeared into his shell as soon as the best-of-seven portion of the schedule begins. If this seems like déja vu, that’s as a result of it’s. You may join a vialine 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 idea is that Harden will go away anybody rooting for him pissed off. The warning indicators of Harden reworking right into a playoff melanoma had been current within the ultimate 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 ageing, Harden is reliably unreliable as soon as the postseason calendar suggestions off.
The place did it go mistaken?
The Sixers can survive the kind of one-dimensional sport Harden delivered towards Brooklyn’s can’t-find-the-bottom-of-a-Internet 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 skill to make defenses targeted on him as the first possibility, appear to be turnstiles.
In Sport 2, Harden ran up the worth of the brick, misfiring on 10 of his 13 makes an attempt from the sector, scoring solely eight factors. Luckily, 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 companion to dip into the fountain of youth and ship prime MVP Harden performances each evening, nevertheless it’s placing to see how far he’s fallen. Particularly in mild 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 ultimate 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 era. His bag of strikes left defenses so mystified, opposing gamers assumed their regular defensive stances with fingers 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 no journey to the charity stripe.
Main the Nets 2-0 may look like 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 wishes. 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 rely on it.