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After His Latest Disasterclass Performance, The James Harden Playoff Experience Is Not For The Faint Of Heart

Andrew D. Bernstein. Getty Images.

Through Game 4 of the Clippers/Mavs series, you could have made the case that James Harden was playing some of the best basketball of his life

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The way he took over Game 4 down the stretch with clutch basket after clutch basket, I imagine there were more than a handful of Clippers fans who were convinced things were finally going to be different this time around. With Kawhi Leonard out it's pretty important that the other Clippers stars show up, and that certainly means James Harden. For them to get past Luka and the Mavs, it would require everyone to do their part and make sure they don't have a no show type performance.

Sadly, just like we've seen for his entire career, James Harden giveth and James Harden taketh away.

In the biggest game of the season, at home, in a game the franchise and the fanbase needed Harden…..this is what they got

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and hey, while he certainly wasn't the only Clippers star who no showed this game

as a Clippers fan it has to really make you nervous after Game 6 (and a potential Game 7). As we just saw last year, when Harden lays a stinker in a huge swing game, it almost always means there's another one on the horizon

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which seeing as how the Clippers are down 3-2, you can understand why that might be an issue. Having to already deal with a streaky playoff performer in Paul George, and now having to deal with Harden also reverting back into his playoff dropper ways is probably the worst case scenario for both the Clippers and their fans since I think we can assume Kawhi isn't coming back to save the day, and even if he does he's not going to be 100%.

This honestly has been the story of Harden's entire playoff career. There are moments when he looks incredible, living up to his reputation as one of the most gifted offensive players the league has ever seen. But time and time again, just when you think it's possible to believe in what you're seeing, he puts up a performance like Game 5 in the biggest game of the year, at home. 

If you could sum up the entire James Harden Playoff Experience in one series, it's this. Dominant on the court until the pressure rises and the team needs the stars to come through. The fact that the Clippers are comprised of 3 players who have issues in that department is concerning, and even more worrisome is the fact that the team needs to pay BOTH James Harden and Paul George this summer.

That's the bigger domino for me. The Mavs are proving to be the better team (no Kawhi helps) and they'll probably wrap up this series at home, mostly because their star showed up

But moving forward, what do you do if you're the Clippers? Both George and Harden are going to want max extensions, and if you don't do it you could potentially lose those assets for nothing while not having a ton of avenues to replace them. Yet at the same time, does it make any sense to overpay for aging players who can't come through in the postseason if your entire goal is winning the title? If the Clippers go out in 6 and George and Harden both have another stinker, I'm not sure what the Clippers do. You almost have to pay the contracts just so you don't lose the asset, and with teams like ORL/PHI needing wing help while having money to burn, there will be someone on the open market who gives George the money he wants if he turns down his $48M player option later this summer and doesn't extend in LA.

The Clippers went all in on this core to "win now". This is their title window. You don't trade for James Harden and Paul George to lose in the first round, even without Kawhi. Team after team continues to take the bait with Harden, and while I'm a fellow Sun Devil and have been a James Harden guy since he had a pencil beard back in the early 2000s, there's no denying that you simply cannot trust him to put a complete playoff series together, and for a team with title aspirations that's as dangerous as it gets.

In year's past, once a performance like this happens we begin to start to see the quit factor show up. We'll know right away in Game 6 what version of Harden we're getting, and for Clippers fans' sake you have to pray it's the Harden you saw in Games 1-4 and in no way shape or form the guy who took the floor for Game 5.

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