Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Sport | By Ellis Neal

James Harden Takes Blame For Rockets' Playoff Exit

James Harden Takes Blame For Rockets' Playoff Exit

The Golden State Warriors host the San Antonio Spur on Sunday for Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

Nursing a twisted left ankle, Leonard could have played Thursday had it been an elimination game for San Antonio, but the Spurs held him out to rest the ankle for a potential win-or-go-home Game 7 on Sunday, according to ESPN.com's Michael C. Wright. "Somebody actually asked me when we opened the Houston series what I would take from the '95 series [against the Rockets], if you guys remember that". This sequence of events would be too much for nearly any basketball team to overcome in the span of a seven-game series. Kawhi Leonard will return, and if Popovich can somehow adjust his dominance to allow the others get into a rhythm, maybe they have a shot at making the finals, against all odds.

He and MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard will go head-to-head, with the latter dealing with an ankle injury that kept him out of the series-clinching Game 6 victory over the Rockets.

Harden finished with 10 points on two-of-11 shooting with seven assists and six turnovers.

October 25 in Oakland: The Spurs spoiled opening night for the Warriors, as well as Kevin Durant's debut with his new team, rolling to a 129-100 rout at Oracle Arena. The 75 points Houston scored on Thursday night was a season low and the fewest points the franchise had scored in a playoff game since managing just 70 against the Los Angeles Lakers on May 17, 2009. He responded by pouring in 34 points on 16-26 shooting, and added 12 rebounds. They had a really good season.

San Antonio will have to try to keep pace from the tip.

In the absence of Leonard and with point guard Tony Parker out to a leg injury, San Antonio have needed LaMarcus Aldridge to step up and the big man has delivered. The San Antonio Spurs were the No. 1-ranked defense during the regular season, giving up only 103.5 points per 100 possessions.

The Spurs were up by 19 by halftime in a game that was over quickly, and didn't let up to reach the Western Conference finals for the first time since winning the title in 2014.

Two of Ginobili's points had the Spurs' bench leaping with delight in the second quarter, when he threw down an eye-opening dunk. "It's frustrating the way that we lost, especially how good of a year we had as a team, with a new coaching staff and some new key pieces to our team". San Antonio did drop the first game of the round to Houston, suffering a 126-99 loss, but their trail in the series would be short-lived.

James Harden of the Houston Rockets had emerged this past season as not only an National Basketball Association superstar, but one of the elite players and one of faces of the league - especially with his signature fluffy beard. "He said how great of a year I had, and how great of a year our organization had, and I just told him congratulations". I'd be extremely surprised if they win two games.

"Mike who? I don't know a Mike Brown", Popovich joked.

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