The NBA has suspended Houston Rockets guard James Harden for one game after he kicked LeBron James in Sunday's 105-103 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
Harden and James engaged in a great head-to-head battle during the game, with one seemingly trying to top the other on every possession. But at one point, emotions boiled over as James attempted to tie up Harden and force a jump ball. In the minor scuffle, Harden directed a kick toward James' midsection.
Harden remained in the game, only earning a flagrant foul for the incident.
Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick caught both players' reactions after the game:
Many wondered if Harden would receive retrospective punishment. His infraction was similar to Dwyane Wade's in 2012. Wade kicked Ramon Sessions in the groin and received a subsequent one-game suspension.
ESPN's Tim Legler believes the NBA made the correct decision: "I'm not surprised by it. Everybody looked at it. It looked fairly intentional. I don't know that he necessarily was trying to kick him there. But he definitely took his foot in [LeBron's] direction."
Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution provided Josh Smith's reaction:
Harden will be absent for the Rockets when they play the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday. Although that will be a tough game for Houston, his suspension is unlikely to have any sort of long-term impact on both the Rockets' NBA title push and his own MVP candidacy.
Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher broke down the offensive impact Harden has had this season:
Houston will likely rely on some combination of Corey Brewer and Jason Terry to get by at shooting guard against the Hawks. Combined, the two are averaging 18.9 points and 3.8 assists a game.
Since the Rockets lack a dynamic scorer behind Harden, the rest of the team will have to pick up the slack offensively without his 27.1 points a game.