James Harden is a deserving candidate for the MVP award in the National Basketball Association with his astonishing play through the regular season and most of the postseason. However, in the Houston Rockets' 107-110 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 last night, some old demons reared their raggedy heads.
Harden is the real deal with the ability to get to the basket and shoot from distance with ease. Additionally, he draws fouls on three-point shots like no one in the history of the National Basketball Association.
Back when it was first announced that Harden would be moved to point guard to run head coach Mike D'Antoni's quick shot offense, many experts raised their antennas in concern due to Harden's history of turning the ball over.
He set an NBA record for turnovers in 2016 with 4.6 per game. He has increased that NBA record to 5.7 per game during the 2017 regular season. However, career highs in points, assists, and rebounds during this regular season, as well as the uptempo style of the Rockets, offset those turnovers and has him in serious contention for the MVP award.
But in Tuesday's critical Game 5 against the Spurs, Harden pulled a Houdini act in critical situations. Down the stretch, he held onto the ball until late in the shot clock, pounding the ball into the floor incessantly, and his team didn't score during those critical periods.
He was 0-for-3 in overtime and had three turnovers and only one assist. He did a good job of drawing the defense and dishing, but his Rocket teammates couldn't convert when the team needed it most.
Even with Kawhi Leonard sitting out the last five minutes of regulation and missing overtime completely due to a leg injury, Harden was unable to get enough offense going to push his team over the top, even without Klaw draped all over him.
It was the antiquated and wile Manu Ginobili that outplayed Harden down the stretch, including a critical block as time expired. Harden finished with 33 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. But he also had nine turnovers, and in the game's most critical moments, failed to deliver.
A legit MVP rises to the occasion in crunch time. Harden didn't seize the moment last night. It's yet to be seen if he truly can.