Many Houston Rockets fans probably felt the need to drink after the team was eliminated from the National Basketball Association playoffs in a 39-point blowout against the San Antonio Spurs, and James Harden was right there with them. Known for their clean, meticulous style of play, the Spurs proved too much for the Rockets once again, putting on a route and winning the game 114-75. The Houston star scored just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting in over 36 minutes of play, looking nothing like a leading contender for NBA MVP honors.
James Harden was barely a factor in a season-ending loss for the Rockets.
That was truly an bad performance from Harden, and despite his exhaustion, it's certainly fair to criticize an MVP candidate for stinking up the joint like that in an elimination game at home, when the other team was missing its best player. The Rockets have a few athletic defensive specimens on their team, but it takes a five-man unit to stop the Spurs' relentless, methodical attack.
Aldridge posted an impressive double-double with 34 points and 12 rebounds to lead the way, as all five San Antonio starters scored in double figures in the close out game.
But it was a costly night for San Antonio in Game 5. Aldridge made the All-Star team last season while learning to work as a second option behind Kawhi Leonard, and once San Antonio reached the playoffs, he shredded OKC for 79 points in the first two games of their second-round series. "We've got to get better next year". Kawhi Leonard did not play due to a lingering ankle injury.
Maybe the Rockets were beaten down psychologically by their crushing overtime defeat in Game 5 in San Antonio.
"Once he got it going, we tried to keep going back to him", Patty Mills said of Game 6. The 4-2 series win sends them to conference finals against the Golden State Warriors. He didn't take his first shot until halfway through the second quarter; by then, Houston was already trailing by 21.
Life didn't hit the Rockets in the face Thursday - the Spurs did. Two of those performances came in a series-clinching win (2014, 2017).
The Spurs opened the third quarter with an 8-1 run, with six points from Aldridge, to extend their already big lead to 69-43 with about 9 1/2 minutes left.
Though the Spurs won two of three regular-season meetings with Golden State, they know that this series will be much more hard than their previous meetings this season.
"Hopefully", D'Antoni concluded, "this will spur us on to where we need to go and get better next year".