Report: James Harden was ‘broken’ and unreachable after Miami Heat beat Philadelphia 76ers in 2022 playoffs'
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James Harden was “broken” following the Philadelphia 76ers’ series loss to the Miami Heat in the 2022 NBA Playoffs.

The Heat did a good job defending Harden in the series, holding him to 20 or fewer points in five of the six games in the series. Miami went on to the Eastern Conference Finals following the win, but the team was defeated by the Boston Celtics in seven games.

According to Harden’s manager and longtime friend Troy Payne, the star guard was unreachable following the loss.

“Payne has known Harden for years, so he understood that Harden reacts to year-ending losses by holing up in his Houston home and withdrawing from the world,” Fox Sports’ Yaron Weitzman wrote. “But this…well, this was different.

“‘He was broken,’ one friend of Harden’s said. ‘It was bad. He was really hurting.’”

Harden’s teams have struggled in the playoffs lately, failing to make it past the second round in four consecutive seasons. Injuries hurt Harden when he was on the Brooklyn Nets in the 2020-21 season, as a hamstring injury caused him to miss time in the postseason against the Milwaukee Bucks, who went on to win the title.

The former MVP really struggled in Game 6 against the Heat in last year’s playoffs, finishing with just 11 points and attempting just two shots in the second half of the game.

“Another day went by,” Weitzman wrote. “Then another. Payne reached out to some mutual friends to see if they’d heard from Harden. None had. Payne tried Harden’s personal chef.

“‘Yeah, he’s here,’ the chef said. ‘He’s just saying he needs more time to himself.’

“Finally, around Day 10, Payne’s phone buzzed. Harden’s name flashed across the screen. He told Payne that he was hurting, physically but also emotionally, that the previous two years – multiple trades, multiple injuries, multiple playoff failures – had left him drained and deflated, that he was eager to put it all behind him.”

Harden has dealt with a lot over the past few seasons, getting traded from Houston to Brooklyn and then from Brooklyn to Philadelphia.

A usually durable player, Harden was limited by a hamstring injury as well, leading to a decline in his efficiency.

“The whole two years was a low point. I’ve never really had to deal with something like that,” Harden told Weitzman. “My body, mentally, physically. … It was a lot going on. I mean, basketball is everything to me.”

Harden has run out of gas before in the playoffs, according to a high-level Houston Rockets employee, but the star guard didn’t want to make any excuses for his performance against Miami.

“There is no answer,” Harden said. “I don’t make excuses. I came into a situation where, you know, [I was] trying to figure things out, wasn’t all the way healthy, it happened. I don’t got an excuse. And anything I say, somebody has something negative to say about or a rebuttal.”

Harden seems to want to put his struggles behind him, especially now that he has a full season with the Sixers and Joel Embiid.

Philadelphia could be one of the best teams in the East this season, and the team is currently in the No. 5 spot despite Harden and Tyrese Maxey missing time due to injuries.

Harden has appeared in just 13 games for the Sixers this season, but he’s putting up impressive numbers once again.

The 10-time All-Star is averaging 22.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 10.8 assists per game while shooting 43.2 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from beyond the arc,

It’s nice to see Harden’s efficiency coming back after he shot just 41.0 percent from the field and 33.0 percent from 3 last season.

The Sixers star is hoping that he can lead the team on a deep playoff run this season and put his recent postseason defeats behind him once and for all.

However, he may run into the Heat and their tough defense once again in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see if Harden has made any tweaks to his game to get past Miami this season.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.