Gregg Popovich and the Spurs Put James Harden on a Milk Carton

Gregg Popovich and the Spurs Put James Harden on a Milk Carton

NBA

Gregg Popovich and the Spurs Put James Harden on a Milk Carton

James Harden and the Houston Rockets are done for the year after they getting obliterated in Game 6 of their second round series with the San Antonio Spurs. The Rockets were blown out 114-75 Thursday night and Harden was nowhere to be found in his team’s most important game of the season.

Despite having a home game in which the Spurs were missing starters Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, Harden was invisible for long stretches. The Rockets failed to force a seventh game and their MVP candidate turned in his worst performance of the season.

Harden went 2-of-11 from the field and 2-of-9 from 3-point range, while scoring a season-low 10 points. He did dish out seven assists, but that’s his lowest total of combined points and assists on the season. Oh, and he also had six turnovers. Harden grabbed three rebounds, had one steal and one block and, to cap it all off, he fouled out after 37 minutes on the floor.

“The Beard” scored 10 points only one other time this season (he never had fewer than 10) and that came in a win over Sacramento on January 31. He played just 32 minutes in that game as the Rockets won easily, 105-83. In that contest he added seven rebounds and eight assists, clearly turning in a superior performance to Thursday’s debacle.

In a game where his team needed him the most, Harden was also an astonishing minus-28, which was his worst mark of the season. On a night he could have proved himself to be MVP-worthy, he allowed the Spurs to take him completely out of his game. Harden looked completely lost whenever he was on the floor.

What was even crazier is that Spurs rookie point guard Dejounte Murray easily outplayed the Rockets’ five-time All-Star. In an elimination game! On the road! Spurs coach Gregg Popovich deserves a ton of credit for putting his faith in Murray, as he had the 20-year-old on the floor for a postseason-high 24 minutes. Murray only eclipsed the 24-minute mark once this season and that was way back on January 19.

Murray was fantastic in Game 6. He scored 11 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and dished out five assists, while adding two steals and a block. He also turned the ball over just once and was a game-high plus-33. Quite a night for the rookie.

Obviously the story of the game was Harden’s disappearing act. It was shocking. On a night he could have exploded and kept his team’s hopes for a Western Conference Finals berth alive, he went out with less than a whimper. The Spurs deserve a ton of credit for going on the road and blowing out a very good Rockets team. But it’s also fair to ask some serious questions about Harden and whether or not he can handle big moments.

There’s going to be a ton of discussion about where Harden’s regular season fits in among the best of all-time. He truly was magnificent this year. But great players step up in big moments. On Thursday night in Game 6, Harden wilted when it mattered most.

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