You Asked For It: There are Indeed Ethics Issues Raised By Inexplicable Choking In The NBA Play-Offs

Prolific commenter slickwilly wrote in one of the Comey threads,

Jack, we need a post on how the Spurs were aided in their win by either a) James Harden point shaving, or b) someone slipped him date rape drugs How ethical are the accusations?

I had been vaguely aware of the surprise rout the short-handed San Antonio Spurs inflicted on the Houston Rockets to win their NBA play-off series, but as the NBA is far-off my ethics radar due to the fact that I consider it a fake sport played by too many ethically-challenged athletes who achieved fame and wealth thanks to the corrupt college basketball system,  a direct query like this was required to get my attention. Here is what happened, courtesy of the Sporting News, as the Houston Rockets superstar delivered an epic choke when his team needed it most:

With Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker out for Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals, James Harden was expected to dominate the Spurs.

Instead, Jonathon Simmons and LaMarcus Aldridge led a perfectly executed game plan by Gregg Popovich to hold Harden and the Rockets to just 75 points in a 39-point win. Harden made just two field goals, had six turnovers and registered a minus-28 as Houston shot just over 30 percent in the loss.

The Washington Post later elaborated on the shocking details:

In the wake of the Spurs’ playoff series-clinching, 114-75 rout of the Rockets on Thursday, it was hard to know which was more shocking: that San Antonio could play so well without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker, or that James Harden could play so poorly. The Houston star scored just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting in more than 36 minutes of play, looking nothing like a leading contender for NBA MVP honors…Harden not only failed to take advantage of the absence of the league’s best perimeter defender, he was stunningly ineffective in the final four minutes of regulation and through the five-minute overtime period. In that span, Harden scored four points on 1-of-6 shooting, turned the ball over four times, and committed two costly fouls, including an offensive foul on what could have been a game-winning possession with seconds left in regulation.

This is not just an example of a star player having a bad game, like “Casey at the Bat.” Harden is regarded as a strong contender for the 2017 NBA MVP award. Nobody could remember a similar example of a healthy NBA super-star playing so poorly for so long in a crucial play-off game, and there is no sport where a single great player’s performance can make the difference between victory and defeat more surely than basketball. Harden has not explained his flop, so people are making excuses for him. The popular  theory seems to be that he was suffering from a concussion following an elbow to the head suffered in the previous game two days earlier. This is pure speculation, however, and as the Post notes, Continue reading