Friday, May 12, 2017

Lamont Cranston

I've watched many playoff basketball games.  And I have listened to many others before all playoff games were televised. This may seem odd to a 20, 30, or even 40 something, but there was a time when all playoff games were not televised.  I can recall, for example, listening to Knick games in the late 60s when the Knicks--abysmal in the 50s and much of the 60s--started to get good and made the playoffs.

Over time I've seen players have amazing games one night, and just okay games the very next day. There are times when someone who rarely plays, shines, and then disappears for the rest of a series. And there have been superstars who are not themselves consistently.

However, I have never seen a Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, alpha to omega performance, like what transpired with James Harden this past week.  Harden was his usual jaw dropping self throughout games one through four of the Spurs-Rockets series. This continued in the fifth game until the overtime.  In the extra period, Harden was awful.  

Okay, anyone can have five bad minutes--though the performance was such that you thought an unathletic twin somehow got on the floor.  Still, it was only five minutes.

But what happened last night in game 6 is almost not to be believed. Harden played as if someone dropped a quaalude in his water.  He was worse than terrible.  Harden usually has the ball on every possession and often takes the shot or drives to the hoop himself.  Harden did not attempt a field goal in the first quarter last night.  Did not take a shot.  I just reviewed the play by play for the game.  The first quarter is riddled with James Harden made bad pass. James Harden turn over. The only shots he took were from the foul line. It is one thing to miss shots, but another not to take any.

As far fetched as it seems, the first thought I had was that some gangster had him in his pocket.  Some pundit thought that perhaps he had suffered a concussion at the end of regulation in game 5--that is how bad he played.

Forget the NBA, even in college or high school games, I have not seen someone-who is typically in control and sometimes unstoppable- not take a shot in an entire quarter or throw the ball away so many times.  Could he have run out of gas after playing so many minutes in the regular season?  I guess it is possible, but the abrupt transformation is tough to accept.

 I recall in the mid 90s, the Knicks played the Rockets in game 7 and a guy named John Starks for the Knicks could not throw the ball in the ocean. He missed nearly all his shots. I just looked it up and he was 2 for 18.  I remember watching that game and my thinking then was that they got to take him out--because he was so cold.   But the difference between that game and yesterday was that Starks was clearly trying to make baskets.  Harden last night was not.

It will be interesting in the next several days to hear the conjecture, and maybe some definitive explanations for what took place.

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