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James Harden Had The Spinzone Of The Century By Suggesting The Mavs Are Actually The Team With All The Pressure To Win Game 6

Tim Warner. Getty Images.

I imagine a pretty important part of being a professional athlete in a playoff series is your ability to turn the page quickly after a loss and not let it carry over into the next game. Keeping your focus on the task at hand, controlling what you can control, doing your best to not pay attention to the media and all the hot takes, stuff like that.

For someone like the Clippers (and more specifically James Harden), following their disaster performance in Game 5 to drop to 2-3 against the Mavs, their mentality heading into Game 6 tonight is crucial. If you allow yourself to think you're cooked, chances are your season is going to end. 

Perhaps that's what went into James Harden's answer today about the pressure to win tonight, because his answer was certainly something

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On the surface, this is only partly insane. Harden is right, there is pressure on the Mavs to win tonight at home with all the momentum having shifted to their side. You never want to drop a home closeout game and then have to go on the road for a Game 7, where anything can happen. One cold shooting night and boom, you're off to Cancun.

So in that regard, I'd have to agree with Harden. The Mavs have some pressure to win tonight.

Sadly, where Harden loses me is suggesting that his Clippers have no pressure on them heading into Game 6. I'm sorry, what?

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James Harden is aware that if you lose 4 times in a 7 game series the season is over correct? A first round loss for a team like the Clippers who went all in this year and traded for Harden so they could win a title would be a disaster. Call me crazy, but that suggests there is a great deal of pressure on LAC to win, you know, if they want to keep their season alive. If that doesn't create pressure, what does?

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Coming off their performance in Game 5 

the Clippers are up to their eyeballs in pressure tonight. Not just for the immediate season, but for the future of the franchise as well. There's a world where this is Paul George's (and maybe even Harden's) last game as a Clipper. Given their cap situation, rebuilding this roster into a "contender" isn't exactly going to be easy, so yeah, there is a shit ton of pressure for LAC to find a way to get this series back to LA and then to also win Game 7.

If the Mavs lose, it would definitely sting, but it doesn't end their season. All they have to do is something we've already seen them do twice in this series, which is win on the road. What makes the Harden stance so funny is once you get this late into a playoff series, everyone has pressure! Hell, I'm not sure there's any time in a series where both sides don't have pressure, even if it's a 3-0 or 3-1 series. If you're the team that's up, you don't want to screw around and create the potential for disaster. Obviously, if you're on the side with 3 losses, you're playing for your basketball lives. 

But hey, maybe there's some sports psychologist out there who will say this is actually a healthy mindset to have for a player and team that find themselves in the Clippers' position. If you worry too much about the pressure, it can throw you off and impact your play. Instead, just go out and play your game and let the chips fall where they may. A "you can't give into the pressure if you don't acknowledge it" sort of mental approach.

I do buy that to some degree, but when you're someone who has a long playoff history of not being able to perform under pressure in the biggest moments of your season, maybe this nonchalant approach isn't the best. Maybe understanding that there is a great deal of pressure on you to both perform well and win tonight would bring a different level of focus, one that would actually translate to a win. 

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I don't want to tell James Harden how to prepare, but I do think someone should tell him that tonight is actually a very important game, because it's not like his current approach has worked out all that well for him over the years.