James Harden’s disappearing act of a season is getting old

James Harden making the playoffs is a reliable annual trend. A sign similar to Punxsutawney Phil is emerging as spring, but with darker clouds in the forecast. Harden disappeared into his shell as the best part of what seemed like a decade began his seven-run schedule. If this sounds like déjà vu, that’s because it is. you can connect through aFrom Harden’s no-show in the 2012 NBA Finals to his lobotomy on hands Of miami heat In 2022.

If history is any indication, the assumption is that Harden will let anyone down. The warning signs of Harden turning into playoff melanoma were present in the final week of the regular season, when his eruption began while he was battling a sore Achilles. Whether it’s Elvis’ washed-out level of fitness, his physical ailment of the week, or just his accelerated aging, Harden is downright unbelievable once the season calendar tips off.

Where did it go wrong?

the sixers Can survive the kind of one-dimensional game Harden pitched against Brooklyn’s Cain-Get-about to meetfloor-Of-A-net lineup. It won’t slide into the second round matchup.

In Game 1, Harden could not finish inside, drilling only 1-for-8 on 2-pointers and scoring 21 points on 23 shots.

Harden later confessed, “I couldn’t make the layup.”

It’s a worrying sign for a virtuoso who had the preternatural ability to focus on what, as a primary option, looks like a turnstile.

In Game 2, Harden increased the cost of the brick, failing on 10 of his 13 attempts from the field, scoring only eight points. Fortunately, Philadelphia’s defense surrounded Brooklyn in the second half, holding the Nets to 84 points to minimize Harden’s ineffectiveness.

While he is more lenient, Harden still commits offense. Embiid doesn’t need his pick-and-roll dance partner to take a dip in the fountain of youth every night and give prime MVP Harden performances, but it’s amazing to see how far he’s fallen. He took the last off-season in an effort to position himself for a supermax extension, especially in light of the pay cut, and capitalize on the NBA’s “over-36-rule”, setting himself up for an eventual long-term contract. .

How far (and fast) have the mighty fallen

Two years ago, Harden was regarded as one of the smartest scorers of our generation. His bag of moves made the defense so mysterious, opposing players assumed his usual defensive stance hands behind their backs To avoid sending him over the line.

This season, Harden took the fewest free throws per game since his rookie season. After the season, when the referees blow their whistles, that’s where Harden goes down. In his last three playoff appearances, Harden has played 117 straight minutes without a trip to the charity stripe.

Chief Net 2-0 might seem like an odd time to complain, but you’re crazy for not worrying about Harden’s ticking clock. This is the series where Harden should flourish and get anywhere on the floor he wishes. Instead, Mikal Bridges is bottling it up like a repressed emotion.

There is a possibility that Harden starts to catch lightning in a bottle and deliver a series of career-defining performances, but I wouldn’t count on it.