Houston Rockets: Destroying the myth of James Harden as a playoff choker

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The all-too popular narrative regarding Houston Rockets superstar James Harden is that he chokes in the playoffs. Here’s why that couldn’t be further from the truth!

Anyone who follows basketball knows that the Houston Rockets superstar has drawn the label of a playoff choker, which is interesting, as James Harden was the most clutch player in the NBA during the 2018-2019 season. It seems incredibly irresponsible to throw the choker label on the most clutch player in the league, regardless of whether the subject is on the regular season or the playoffs.

But even if the topic at hand is on the postseason, it’s also erroneous to label Harden a choker, as the numbers say otherwise. Harden has never finished outside of the top two players in scoring in any of the thirteen playoff series he’s played in with the Rockets. In fact, he’s been the leading scorer in seven of the playoff series he’s played in and finished second in the other six series. The fact that the Rockets have only been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs once in the last five years has a lot to do with Harden and his high level of play during the playoffs.

In addition, there really isn’t a significant drop off in Harden’s regular season numbers and his postseason averages during his tenure with the Rockets, as he averages 29 points per game during the regular season on 44.3 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from deep. In addition, Harden averages 7.7 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game during the regular season along with 4.4 turnovers per game. During the postseason, Harden averages 28.2 points per game, 7 assists and 5.2 rebounds, in addition to 4.5 turnovers per game. Harden’s points, assists, and turnovers are all essentially the same during the regular season and the postseason.

The shooting efficiency does slip, as he averages 41.2 percent from the field and 32.2 percent from deep, but he actually shoots more so it’s natural for his efficiency to slip. During the regular season, Harden averages 19.3 field goal attempts and 8.6 3-point attempts, whereas in the postseason he averages 20.7 field goal attempts and 9.2 3-point attempts. The law of averages would indicate that naturally the more he shoots, the lower his percentage would be, but there is a slight dip in efficiency nonetheless. It’s normal for many players to shoot a lower percentage in the postseason however, so it’s not just Harden.

But as usual, there are Harden detractors who will always ignore facts and basketball science, so it’s worth taking a look back into each individual postseason Harden has been a part of as a member of the Houston Rockets. Let’s get started!

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