Whatever people were expecting to happen when the Houston Rockets hosted the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals on Thursday night, no one could have predicted what actually occurred.
Even without star forward Kawhi Leonard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, the Spurs dominated their opponent from the opening tip, building up a 61-42 halftime lead and cruising to an easy 114-75 road victory.
The loss means star point guard James Harden and the Rockets are now eliminated from the postseason, but even the biggest Houston haters couldn't have predicted how unceremonious the Rockets' playoff exit would be.
After the game, Harden and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had a conversation on the court, with Pop congratulating one of the NBA's best players on a fantastic season. In the video below, Harden revealed what exactly the legendary coach told him in the moments following the devastating loss:
"He honestly just said he didn't know what to say," Harden says in the video. "He said how great of a year I had and how great of a year our organization had. I just told him congratulations and best of luck in the next round and continue to be great."
After tying his season-low offensive output with only 10 points in the Game 6 loss, a devastated Harden took responsibility for the embarrassing playoff exit, telling ESPN.com that it's up to him and the team to come back even better next year:
"Everything falls on my shoulders," he said. "I take responsibility for it, both ends of the floor. It's tough, especially the way we lost at home for Game 6. But it happened and we move forward."
The Rockets finished the regular season with an impressive 55-27 record after ending the 2015-16 campaign with a 41-41 mark. Under coach Mike D'Antoni, there's a lot of reason to be optimistic about Houston's future.
Still, this year's loss is sure to sting, especially as the Rockets sit at home and watch the Spurs battle the Golden State Warriors for a chance to go to the NBA Finals.
The Spurs, though, will have an uphill battle facing them if they want to continue to advance. In addition to the ankle injury Leonard is nursing, San Antonio's next opponent is the team that put up an NBA-best 67-15 record this year.
The Warriors have swept both the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz this postseason in convincing fashion, and have been resting while the Spurs have been fighting to eliminate the Rockets.
However, anything can happen in the postseason, and as we all know, it's never smart to count a Popovich-coached Spurs team out.