Skip to main content

Zach Lowe Explains Why Criticism Of James Harden's Playoff Performances Is Valid: "I Did The Deep Dive, Harden's Numbers In Crunch Time And Big Games Are Bad. The Criticism Isn't Unfair, It's Not Cherry-Picking."

Zach Lowe Explains Why Criticism Of James Harden's Playoff Performances Is Valid: "I Did The Deep Dive, Harden's Numbers In Crunch-Time And Big Games Are Bad. The Criticism Isn't Unfair, It's Not Cherry-Picking."

James Harden has arguably been the most skilled player in the NBA since he first broke out as a franchise player with the Houston Rockets. His ability to score seems almost automatic and he is able to create looks for teammates with ease, making an offense almost entirely by himself. Harden has been dominant during regular seasons for the Rockets as well as in bursts for the Nets, but the one charge leveled against him is that he underperforms in the playoffs. 

Zach Lowe has addressed the peculiarity of the situation in his podcast, The Lowe Post, breaking down Harden's numbers in the most important games of his playoff career and in the 4th quarters of those games. Based on his analysis, Lowe has arrived at the conclusion that the accusations about Harden not performing well in the playoffs have some validity

“The media is sometimes guilty of fixating on one or two moments of a player’s postseason career and forgetting all the good ones that came before it - that happened with Lebron before he won a championship. James Harden’s postseason resume is lacking, almost completely lacking, in big moments since he hit a shot in San Antonio in the 2012 conference finals when he played 4 teams ago, for OKC.

I did the deep dive. Harden’s 4th quarter numbers, in big games, in elimination games, in 2-2 series games, are bad. His crunch time numbers are bad. Most of his best playoff games are when his team is up 3-0, down 3-0, up 3-1, down 3-1. I watched all of his field goal attempts in the 4th quarters of his postseason career, a lot of his crunch time baskets are like “Oh GS is up 8, we’ll concede a layup so you don’t get a 3,” and Harden inflates his crunch time field goal % from zero to something better than zero with essentially a conceded layup.

Like right now, his postseason resume is justifiably defined by meltdowns - three 2-11 games!!!! The criticism of his postseason performance is not unfair, it’s not cherry picking, it has been below his standard more so than it has been for almost any other superstar in recent NBA history. It’s time. The time is now, this is it.”

Harden was injured in the playoffs for the Brooklyn Nets last season, so he didn't exactly get to show what he could do in a team with other stars but this postseason will provide him with another opportunity to flip the narrative. Considering that he has now forced his way out of two franchises in the last year, all eyes will be on how Harden does alongside Joel Embiid for the 76ers. A title has now become almost a necessity to cement his legacy in the NBA, and it could just end up being his season after all.