In the aftermath of the Rockets 39-point game six loss the night before, the man that brought James Harden to Houston was his biggest defender following the criticism that’s been lobbed in his direction since the game ended.
“To me, it’s a joke to get on him,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said Friday.
Harden scored just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting Thursday with the Rockets season on the line, to go with six turnovers. That was after playing a lousy second half two nights earlier in the Rockets 110-107 overtime loss in game five, but Morey stood firmly behind his best player.
“Game five, people are down on him at the end of the game, well, we’re down 10 without James,” he said.
Harden was not at Toyota Center for his exit interview Friday, but he took the blame for the Rockets game six loss right after it finished.
“Everything falls on my shoulder,” he said. “I take responsibility for it, both ends of the floor.”
As you’d expect, he’s taken the loss hard.
“He’s devastated like everyone else,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said sitting to Morey’s right at the podium Friday. “He’s had a historic season, and we can get that better.”
After an MVP caliber regular season, Harden took a bit of a step back during the Rockets playoff 11-game playoff run. He went from shooting 44 percent to 41 percent, and his 3-point shooting dipped to below 28 percent.
“The guy who is hardest on James is James,” Morey said. “Coach and I briefly saw him after (game six). We wanted to give him some space, and we’re going to meet with him longer shortly, but you can imagine with all his blood, sweat, and tears he puts in, I know everyone is disappointed, but he’s number one.”
His teammates were quick to defend him as well.
“He’s had a historic year,” Rockets guard Lou Williams said. “Obviously people will have their opinions. Last night will be the topic of conversation for a few days, but I think outside of that, once people continue to talk they understand the amount of work that he put into the season, the history that he created, the position that he put us all in to be successful, so those are the things that I think about.”
As Rockets forward Ryan Anderson pointed out, it’s not as if Harden was the only Rocket to play poorly Thursday night.
“Obviously, no one played well,” he said. “It was a down the line kind of a game where everyone for some reason, you can’t put your finger on it, I have no idea why, I feel like we were prepared, we were ready to go, but no one really brought what we brought in the other games in the series.”
The truth is, as good as Harden was all season, he will likely be remembered by what happened against the Spurs Thursday. He can make things right, but won’t get the opportunity for a long time. For now, he’s just got to live with it.
“That’s the tough part about being James,” Anderson said. “He shoulders so much of this team. He’s our leader, he’s our guy. When we win he gets the praise, when we lose he obviously gets the blame most of the time, so it’s tough, it’s unfair, but he’s a strong guy, obviously he knows that.”