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Ranking James Harden's 5 worst NBA Playoff performances

James Harden (#13) of the Brooklyn Nets
James Harden (#13) of the Brooklyn Nets
Charles Eluemuno

James Harden has come under heavy fire, as fans are livid with his performance against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semi-finals. With bursts of awesomeness early in the playoffs, it looked like the guard had turned his playoffs fortune around.

However, in the crucial Game 7 fixture, James Harden's impeccable shooting was gone with the wind, as he shot a measly 16.7% from the 3-point range. His partnership with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving created a super team. But the Brooklyn Nets got edged out of the 2021 NBA playoffs with a 111-115 loss at the Barclays Center.

Although James Harden has had several poor runs in the NBA playoffs, many hoped things would be different this year, considering the caliber of superstars in the Brooklyn Nets team. But even with KD putting the team on his shoulders, Harden could not function as a supporting cast member.

There is no questioning how great James Harden is as a player. However, he has struggled to replicate his exceptional regular-season performances in the playoffs over the years. He has been to the NBA Finals once (2012) in 12 postseason appearances.

Following the Brooklyn Nets' exit from the 2021 NBA playoffs, let us take a look at five instances where James Harden failed to deliver the goods in the postseason:

#5 2020 NBA Playoffs Round 1, Game 7

James Harden (#13) of the Houston Rockets inbounds the ball during the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Seven of the Western Conference First Round in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
James Harden (#13) of the Houston Rockets inbounds the ball during the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Seven of the Western Conference First Round in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to take a break in March 2020. Upon resumption in late July, only a few teams were invited to the Orlando bubble to play seeding games before the battle for the championship commenced.

James Harden and the Houston Rockets finished fourth in the Western Conference and squared off against the OKC Thunder. Although the Rockets secured their second-round berth after a thrilling Game 7, Harden's contributions were minimal.

An 11.1% shooting display from downtown and a 0.267 field-goal percentage summed up James Harden's effort in that fixture. Harden struggled in all areas of the court, but the team advanced to the next round, thanks to the brilliance of Eric Gordon and Robert Covington.


#4 2019 NBA Playoffs Round 1, Game 3

James Harden (#13( of the Houston Rockets takes a three-point shot.
James Harden (#13( of the Houston Rockets takes a three-point shot.

The Houston Rockets faced off against the Utah Jazz in the first round of the 2019 NBA playoffs. Coming into the series as the 4th seed, the Houston Rockets were the favorites to win.

Although the Rockets went 3-0 up in the series, James Harden endured a horrific shooting night. Of the 22 points he scored, 14 came from the free-throw line. His field-goal percentage was the worst that night, as he shot only 2 of 13 from downtown and went 3 of 20 from the field.

#3 2018 NBA Playoffs Round 3, Game 5

Stephen Curry (#30) of the Golden State Warriors reacts as James Harden (#13) of the Houston Rockets looks on in the third quarter of Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals in the 2018 NBA Playoffs.
Stephen Curry (#30) of the Golden State Warriors reacts as James Harden (#13) of the Houston Rockets looks on in the third quarter of Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals in the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

A lot of James Harden's poor postseason performances have come when he went up against the Golden State Warriors. It's almost as if he decides to get into a shooting contest with Stephen Curry but comes up woefully short.

The Houston Rockets made it to the conference finals on the back of two comfortable 4-1 wins. With neither team pulling away in the conference final, it was a closely contested series. Game 5 was an opportunity for one of the teams to take the lead, and the Rockets turned out to be that one.

While the Rockets fought for the win with all their players putting in the hard yards, James Harden was a liability. He attempted 11 three-point shots but could not convert any.

His field-goal percentage was equally non-impressive, as he went 5 of 21 (23.8%) from open play. Despite taking the lead in the series, the Rockets lost the tie in Game 7 after Harden endured another poor shooting run.


#2 2015 NBA Playoffs Round 3, Game 5

James Harden (#13) of the Houston Rockets in the 2015 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Finals.
James Harden (#13) of the Houston Rockets in the 2015 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Finals.

After making it to the NBA Finals in 2012 with the OKC Thunder, this was the closest James Harden had come to making it to that stage of the competition since joining the Houston Rockets. The Rockets had to overcome the no. 1 seeded Warriors to reach the 2015 NBA Finals.

James Harden was instrumental in getting his team to that point but completely cooled off in the conference finals. The Warriors took an early 3-0 lead and were ready to bring out the brooms. However, Harden went berzerk in Game 4 and registered a career-high 45 points to keep the Rockets in the contest.

With what seemed like an inspiring comeback in the making, more of the same was expected of James Harden heading into Game 5, but he miserably failed. Harden failed to convert from beyond the arc and went 2 of 11 (18.2%) from the field. He ended the game with 14 points, most of which came from the free-throw line.


#1 2018 NBA Playoffs Round 1, Game 2

James Harden (#13) of the Houston Rockets against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
James Harden (#13) of the Houston Rockets against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

James Harden was the NBA scoring champion and MVP in the 2017-18 regular season. Heading into the playoffs, a lot was expected of the Rockets, who finished as the no. 1 seed in the West with a 67-15 run.

It was a narrow victory for the Rockets in Game 1 against the 8th-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves. Although James Harden registered 44 points, his team only won by a 3-point margin.

In Game 2, James Harden was a pale shadow of his illustrious self, as the team was bailed out by Chris Paul. Harden recorded the worst numbers by a stretch in his NBA playoffs career. He ended the game with 12 points and a 10% shooting efficiency from the 3-point range, and a 0.111 field goal percentage.

Although the Rockets made it to the conference finals, they were eliminated by Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in seven games.

Edited by Bhargav

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