Did James Harden just quit on the Houston Rockets?
The candidate for the NBA MVP this season all but disappeared in his team's must-win Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs, scoring just 10 points on 2-for-11 shooting and six turnovers. In a game many thought the Rockets would win to force a Game 7 -- Houston was playing at home, while the Spurs were missing Kawhi Leonard -- they ended up being crushed, 114-75.
It was a bitter end of a series that started with a 27-point victory for the Rockets, who now lose out on the chance to take on the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
But beyond the heartbreak of their season ending, there were also plenty of questions about what happened to James Harden in Game 6. The performance was among the worst he's turned in all season -- and perhaps his entire career, given the circumstances -- and it dominated the discussion after the game.
The performance led to rumors that James Harden may have quit on the Houston Rockets, an assessment that a handful of NBA Hall of Famers reportedly shared with analyst Stephen A. Smith.After the game, James Harden said he and the rest of the team just fell flat in the biggest game of their season. Harden also said he took responsibility for the loss.
"I really just didn't have a rhythm in the game," he said after the game. "As a team, as a unit, we didn't have a rhythm and they just capitalized off of that."
The Spurs led from the opening tip, taking an 18-point lead into halftime and holding off the Rockets whenever it looked as if Houston could get a run started. The loss left the team visibly frustrated, culminating in a viral moment between James Harden and coach Mike D'Antoni.
During the game, television cameras caught Harden and D'Antoni sitting on the bench, stunned at the thrashing the team was taking at the hands of the Spurs. The clip would epitomize a game in which the Rockets seemed to have no answer for a Spurs team missing their top player.A number of fans shared the same assessment that James Harden may have quit on his team, with many taking to social media to share their frustration. Harden's name was the top trending term on Twitter in the minutes after the game ended.
Some of them even suggested that James Harden may have purposely quit on his team in the pivotal game.James Harden's horrible performance in Game 6 wasn't a surprise to everyone.
SB Nation writer Zito Madu noted that for all of his strengths, Harden has a tendency to disappear in the biggest moments.
"Harden is one of the game's best playmakers and scorers because of his mind," Madu wrote. "His game is built to pick opponents apart when the defense has to make the often-fatal decision of showing too much attention to a player that can't really be stopped one-on-one or guarding his army of three-point specialists."
"But that method works best when the game has a normal structure to it. When everything breaks down and the game descends into chaos, Harden thinks himself into a corner, dribbling aimlessly while waiting for an opening that never presents itself. It's as if he's conducting an orchestra in the middle of a death metal concert, rather than jumping into the mosh pit himself."Aside from the rumors that he may have quit on his team, James Harden also fielded questions after the game about whether he was battling injury or illness that hadn't been disclosed. Harden said no, it was just a terrible performance.
[Featured Image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]