On paper, James Harden had a great game in the Rockets’ Game 5 104-99 loss to the Warriors. He finished with 31 points on an efficient 10-of-16 shooting from the field, including eight assists, four rebounds and four steals.
But when Wednesday night's game at Oracle Arena hung in the balance in the fourth quarter, the reigning NBA MVP suddenly disappeared.
With 10:47 left in the fourth quarter, Harden hit a floater to pull the Rockets within one point. He missed a 3-pointer a little less than two minutes later, and then he was barely heard from again.
Here’s what The Beard's shot chart looked like for the remainder of the crucial contest in the NBA playoff second-round series.
James Harden’s shot chart over the final 8:30.— Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13) May 9, 2019
Chance to steal Game 5 with a chance to then close out at home.
The guard with the most dominant scoring season in 30 years...
... takes one shot. pic.twitter.com/tbUjH1lGF4
Harden left the game for a little over a minute, but he re-entered with 7:08 left. From that point until the final buzzer, he scored just three points -- a technical free throw with 3:39 left and a semi-uncontested layup with 19 seconds remaining to cut the Warriors' lead to three.
Harden’s mysterious absence down the stretch is even more notable than other superstars' would be, as he tends to dominate every crucial possession for the Rockets. He leads all qualified players in usage rate this postseason (35.8 percent) after lapping the field in the regular season (39.5 percent).
The Warriors have plenty of lengthy defenders to throw at Harden to knock him off his game -- even without the injured Kevin Durant -- and Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson certainly did well to prevent The Beard from getting comfortable.
Regardless, that shot chart still sticks out like a sore thumb. In order for the Rockets to win Game 6 and stay alive, they’ll need their best player to be less passive in the fourth quarter.