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NBA insider suggests James Harden’s awful play in 76ers Game 6 loss was ‘intentional’ to cost Doc Rivers his job

Jason Burgos
james harden, 76ers
Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

One top NBA analyst believes that James Harden’s horrid play in the second half of the Philadelphia 76ers’ Game 6 loss to the Miami Heat was actually intentional in the hopes that it might cost coach Doc Rivers his job.

On Thursday, the 76ers saw their 2021-2022 season come to a disappointing end against the Heat in Game 6 of their semifinal series. While none of the team’s key players had standout performances in defeat, much of the focus since has been on the poor play of the 76ers big trade deadline acquisition James Harden.

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The 14-time All-Star acquired in February from the Brooklyn Nets for disgruntled point guard Ben Simmons, had a second half to forget in the organization’s biggest game of the season. Philadelphia brought the 2018 league MVP in to hit big shots in monumental moments. Yet, when they needed him to elevate his game at a pivotal point, he only took two shots in the 76ers’ final two-quarters of the season.

Stephen A. Smith suggests James Harden played poorly in Game 6 on purpose

It was a stunning performance that baffled many experts and observers of the league. However, ESPN’s lead NBA expert Stephen A. Smith doesn’t believe Harden just had a bad night at the worst possible time. During a recent edition of the network’s show “Get Up,” the decades-long NBA writer and analyst suggested that Harden’s bad play was intentional, and the end goal may have been for Doc Rivers to be the scapegoat for the loss and lose his job in Philadelphia.

“James Harden was so bad, so horrible last night, it almost looked intentional,” Smith explained. “Let’s think about that for a second. We’re talking about a guy who went three consecutive years averaging over 30. Five consecutive years averaging at least 29 points. Eight or nine years averaging at least 27 points per game. How do you go from that to attempting but two shots in the second half of a close-out game? We are not talking about makes or misses, we’re talking about attempts.

“What scorer do you know in NBA history that can’t get more than two shots up in a close-out playoff game in the second half?” he continued. “… There is no way in hell that you can’t get off more than two shots. Why was that happening? I’m telling you why. Because after the game he’s asked about Doc Rivers and he gives no comment. I don’t think he wants Doc Rivers as the coach. I think we’ve been hearing a whole bunch of stuff about Mike D’Antoni for a reason because he’s always lurking in the background.”

Obviously, James Harden is not going to get his way after general manager Daryl Morey confirmed this week that Rivers will be back in 2022-2023. Nevertheless, it is a bold opinion about one of the league’s best scorers. However, it does not take into account that Harden is an old 32-year-old after 17 years in the NBA, and is not the man he was when he won MVP four years ago.

  • James Harden stats (2021-2022): 21.0 PPG, 7.1 REB, 10.5 AST, 1.2 STL

It is likely why the 76ers may ask him to take a pay cut in a future contract extension offer.