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Playoff Elite Status Is James Harden’s To Snatch Or Squander In Game 7

Everyone expected the Finals to be another rematch between LeBron’s Cavaliers and the super team of the Golden State Warriors. Most feel that it will still end up being that way, especially if James Harden reverts to the form he put forth in prior playoff series, in which case Houston will definitely have a problem. Yet the Rockets have one card to play which can change the fortunes of both a team and a city, one still reeling from the act of terrorism at Santa Fe high school less than two weeks ago.

That’s the #13 card, James Harden.

With the Rockets raising some eyebrows, and making ESPN ratings execs sweat, by pushing the Warriors to a Game 7 in Houston tonight, the opportunity for playoff elite status is teasingly staring James Harden in the face. Add in Chris Paul, who is a game time decision, and things become even more complex for the bearded one. Paul’s status is a double edged sword for the team and Harden and his absence diminishes their chances of winning while simultaneously creates an opportunity for Harden to demonstrate his greatness as he can put the team on his back and elevate them to a shocking series victory over Steph, Klay, KD and the Warriors. 

But will Harden follow the lead of LeBron and prove the doubters wrong? To do so he’ll need to play the game of his life while also inspiring others such as Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon and Gerald Green to lift their games to a level they haven’t achieved as of yet. It’s a burden for superstars, but one all of them must embrace and execute at some point in their careers, especially on the national stage in “win or go home” situations.

Harden lead the League in scoring (30.4 ppg) and was third in assists (8.8) while leading the Rockets to a record this season of 65-17, best in the League. In the 2018 playoffs, Harden ranks third in points scored (454) and third in assists (110), equating to averages of 28.4 ppg (5th) and 6.9 apg (9th). While they’re lower than his regular season stats, Harden’s position in NBA playoff status can take a massive leap forward tonight if he goes off and carries the Rockets into Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.

Since arriving in Houston in 2012, Harden’s playoff performances have been good, but not strong enough to power his team through their deficiencies and over their opponents and advance to the NBA Finals. In tonight’s Game 7 at home, he has the opportunity to erase the performances of the past and write a new chapter in his career. This includes ripping out the chapter detailing the 2017 Western Conference Semifinals where, in Game 6, Harden was plagued by foul trouble, went 2-11, scored 10 points, played small in the paint defensively, looked lost while committing turnover after turnover and could only watch from the bench after fouling out in the Spurs’ thrashing of the Rockets 114-75, an elimination game which sent the Rockets home for the summer. 

James Harden Full Play 2017 WCSF Game 6 vs Spurs – 10 Pts, 7 Ast, 2-11 FGA, 6 TOs All Included!

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We all know that legends can be made in the postseason, and Harden has the opportunity to exorcise the demons of the past and etch his name into the ranks of the elite players who learned how to take the heat, step up to the challenge and bring the rest of the guys with them as they prove the doubters wrong. It’s something that players have to want, have to learn how to do and have to just snatch at some point in their careers. Some do it consistently, like LeBron has been doing over the last eight years as he records another NBA Finals appearance. Others have to learn how to do it by themselves and without the help of other superstars, as Kobe learned how to do after leaving Boston dejected with an NBA Finals loss in 2008.

Regardless of Chris Paul’s status tonight, Harden is flirting with NBA playoff elite status and only he can close the deal. The question is, will he take it like a real MVP does or will he let others snatch it away from him?

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