76ers' James Harden Addresses Close-Out Game Struggles: 'Only So Much I Can Do'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVDecember 16, 2022

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - DECEMBER 13: James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts during the third quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Wells Fargo Center on December 13, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
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James Harden is one of the best players of his generation, but he is missing a championship from his resume in part because of struggles during close-out games in the postseason.

He discussed the topic during an interview with Yaron Weitzman of Fox Sports.

"I've had a few bad games in close-out games. Not all of them have been bad," he said. "Quite frankly, a lot of the times our team wasn't good enough to compete for championships, if you want to be honest.

"There's only so much I can do."

There is no doubt the Philadelphia 76ers guard is a future Hall of Famer.

His list of accomplishments includes the 2017-18 MVP, three scoring titles, an assist title, seven All-NBA selections, 10 All-Star Game nods, a Sixth Man of the Year and a spot on the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team.

However, some of his contemporaries such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and others have incredible resumes that also include at least one championship.

The only time Harden even made the NBA Finals was during the 2011-12 campaign when he came off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

His Houston Rockets, Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers teams, in which he had a much larger role, all fell short during the playoffs to this point.

Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey delved into some of Harden's close-out game struggles after he went an ugly 4-of-9 from the field and attempted a mere two shots after halftime when the 76ers were eliminated by the Miami Heat in the second round of last season's playoffs.

In addition to pointing out he has shot just 40 percent from the field and 25.3 percent from deep in the last nine elimination games, Bailey noted "some of his single-outing stinkers in that sample are hard to forget."

He was 2-of-11 from the field with 12 turnovers in a 2015 loss to the Golden State Warriors and also went 2-of-11 from the field two two years later in an elimination loss to the San Antonio Spurs when he was in Houston.

Perhaps he can change the narrative this season on a 76ers team that is sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings and will be in championship-or-bust mode with the Harden and Joel Embiid combination.

Unless he does, the close-out struggles will always be a part of his narrative.