After being sent home by the Miami Heat (99-90) in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, James Harden is officially 1-8 in his last 9 elimination games. Like the past 9 elimination games, The Beard didn't show up once again and just further proved the allegations about his inability to perform at high-stake moments.
Harden, who put up just 11 (!!) points, 9 assists, and 4 rebounds in 43 minutes, was a disappointment from the opening tip to the final buzzer. The one-time MVP attempted just 2 shots in the second half — channeling his inner Ben Simmons in last year's conference semi-finals, where he had only 3 points in 2 shots in the second half.
Harden's performance is downright inexcusable for someone that plans to opt into a $47.4 million contract next season.
"We ran our offense, and the ball didn't get back to me," Harden said when asked about his underwhelming performance.
No more excuses for Harden
The fact that this is Harden's 8th elimination loss speaks volumes about his career. His tenure with the Sixers was supposed to rewrite his career trajectory, but it only made it worst. The Beard only scored 30 points in the Playoffs once and had the highest turnover average of his career this season. His 40.4% shooting was his lowest average in the postseason in the last eight years.
"Since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden," Joel Embiid said after Game 6. "But that's not who he is anymore. He's more of a playmaker."
"I'm not going to make this a referendum on James," Doc Rivers, playing safe, said post-game about Harden's performance.
The one that got away
The best player of the series was hands down Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler, who closed the series with 32 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists — something Harden can't seem to do throughout his career. Butler, who was Embiid's teammate for one season with the Sixers before a messy breakup, played like the superstar Philadelphia should've never chosen Tobias Harris over.
When asked about his time with Butler and if he regrets parting ways with him, Embiid replied with a sentimental and heartwarming answer.
"I still don't know how we let him go. I wish I could've gone to battle with him still," Embiid said.
Whether or not this is a shot at the Sixers management or not remains unclear, but if there's one thing for sure, it's that Philadelphia has a Harden problem they have to deal with in the offseason (Charles Barkley has a solution for that). Aside from Harden, it will be interesting to see if Doc Rivers maintains his position as the team's head coach after two straight playoff exits.
Nobody knows what's next for the Sixers, and thanks to Harden's disappointing performance, a whole lot of changes are expected to be made in the coming months.