The pending showdown between Thunder guard James Harden and San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili has captivated many, including Harden himself.
The players are mirror images in many ways — both left-handed; both shooting guards and terrific playmakers; both set-shooters on open 3-pointers; both game-changers; both Sixth Man of the Year award winners (Harden this season and Ginobili in 2007-08).
In an odd way, it would be like Harden defending himself.
"We're similar players," Harden said. "I notice his moves and the way he's so crafty and things like. So I'm at least kind of familiar with how I can guard him."
Ginobili did not play in the three regular-season games against the Thunder, meaning Harden last faced Ginobili two seasons ago.
How much better of a defender has Harden become since then? Harden chuckled to imply there's no comparison.
"Every day, it's a grind," Harden said. "It (my defense) is getting better. Going against Kevin (Durant) and Russell (Westbrook) every single day has definitely gotten me a lot better."
When casually observing the Spurs during the regular season and not trying to dissect them piece by piece, what is it about them that most impresses Thunder coach Scott Brooks?
"Their passing really jumps out at you because they spread you out so much and their spacing is outstanding," Brooks said. "They seem to always have guys in the right spots, deep in the corners, in the wing and they have a big rolling hard (toward the basket). They make you guard them and they make you guard all five players.
"It seems like nearly everybody on that team is shooting 40 percent or above form the 3-point line. That's unheard of."
San Antonio is shooting 42.3 percent from 3-point range in the postseason, by far the best in the league. During the regular season, the Spurs shot 39.3 percent from 3-point range, which also led the NBA.
Having played for the Spurs in 2005-06, Thunder reserve center Nazr Mohammed is a former teammate of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili, but he also was teammates with recent San Antonio acquisitions Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw while with the Charlotte Bobcats.
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