HOUSTON -- MVP candidate James Harden accepted that he will be subjected to intense criticism after having one of the worst playoff performances of his career Thursday, when the Houston Rockets' season ended in humiliating fashion.
Harden finished with 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting, seven assists and six turnovers as the San Antonio Spurs, playing without injured superstar Kawhi Leonard and starting point guard Tony Parker, eliminated the Rockets with a 114-75 rout in Game 6 at the Toyota Center.
"You've got to take it for what it is," Harden said. "Everything falls on my shoulders. I take responsibility for it, both ends of the floor. You know, it's tough, especially the way we lost at home for Game 6. But it happened. Now we move forward."
It was Harden's lowest-scoring playoff game since he was held to single digits three times in the 2012 NBA Finals, his last series with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Harden matched his lowest playoff totals in a Rockets uniform for field goals made and attempted; he was also 2-of-11 during a 14-point, 12-turnover outing when the Golden State Warriors eliminated Houston in the 2015 Western Conference semifinals.
Harden, who ranked second in the league in scoring at 29.1 points per game and averaged an NBA-best 11.2 assists this season, seemed stunningly passive with the Rockets facing elimination. Fresh off a scoreless overtime in Houston's Game 5 loss, Harden did not attempt a shot from the field until the 6:19 mark of the second quarter, when he made a 3-pointer that cut the Spurs' lead to 18 points.
"I really just didn't have a rhythm at the beginning of the game," said Harden, who averaged 28.5 points and 8.5 assists during the playoffs. "I feel like I was making some passes, and we just didn't knock down shots or whatever the case may be. As a team, as a unit, we didn't have a rhythm and they capitalized on that."
Nine of Harden's 11 field goal attempts were 3-pointers. He did not make a 2-point attempt. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Harden had only 11 drives, down from his league-high average of 19.7 this postseason.
"They did a really good job of crowding, showing bodies, the bigs at the rim, things like that," said Harden, who battled a cold earlier in the West semifinals series but said he was "good" when asked about his health Tuesday night. "I couldn't really get a rhythm, especially to the basket. Pau [Gasol] did a really good job of using his length at the rim. So hats off to them."
Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni, whose decision to move Harden to point guard helped him have the best statistical season of his eight-year career, opted not to directly answer a question about Harden's Game 6 struggles.
"If it's OK with you guys, what just happened, it happens," D'Antoni said before attempting to shift the focus to the Rockets' success during a 55-win season. "I just told our guys that they had an unbelievable year. They were above all expectations. They battled like crazy. For whatever reason, this game, we didn't have the juice and the stuff. It was right across the board, so we'll figure that out, get better this summer and then come back and do it again."
The Rockets' 75 points were by far their fewest in a game this season. Their previous low was 92 in their Game 3 loss to the Spurs, when Harden scored 43.
"I mean, usually we get that in the first half," D'Antoni said of the point total. "I can't explain it. We just didn't play well. We just didn't have that pop."
Harden had a simple explanation for the Rockets' issues against the Spurs: "They dominated." He acknowledged that it was a bitter ending to a season that was a significant step forward for the franchise in the big picture.
"It's tough," Harden said. "It's frustrating the way that we lost, especially how good of a year we had as a team, with a new coaching staff and some new key pieces to our team. It's pretty good. It could have been better, but we're in the right direction. Now we have a lot of improving to do with the team that we have now."