OAKLAND –- After torching the Warriors for 45 points in Game 4, James Harden likely knew he was going to have to put up a similar performance in Game 5 if his Rockets were to stave off elimination again.
It didn’t happen. Not by a long shot.
Harden, the MVP runner-up to Stephen Curry, had just 14 points on 2-for-11 shooting, missed all three of his 3-point attempts, and committed a horrific 13 turnovers – just three fewer than the entire Warriors team.
Harden’s struggle was the biggest reason that a closely contested game in the third quarter turned eventually into a comfortable 104-90 win for Golden State, which punched its ticket to the NBA Finals.
Veteran guard Jason Terry wasn’t down on his teammate after the game, though.
“James has been carrying us all year long,” Terry said. “You come this far you need some help. We tried to help him as much as we could tonight. It just wasn’t his night. But, he doesn’t need to hang his head about anything. He’s a fighter, he’s a warrior.”
Harden gave defender Andre Iguodala some credit, calling the Warriors forward "long and athletic,” but admitted that Golden State’s swarming defense was the biggest culprit to his off-night.
“Just trying to play in a crowd, trying to do a little bit too much, and I turned the basketball over and gave them easy opportunities in transition,” Harden said. “It is what it is.”
Coach Kevin McHale said: “James didn't play well, but as I've said all year long, we don't win the division, we don't win 56 games, we don't have home court, we don't beat the Clippers in Game 7 if it wasn't for James.
“He had a tough go tonight. There's nothing else you can really say about it, man. Sometimes you go out there and you're trying your best and things just don't work out.”