Oklahoma City Thunder: Calling James Harden
James Harden is the key to the rest of the NBA Finals for the Thunder. Kevin Durant and LeBron James have been routinely great. Historically great. Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade have been alternately sensational and sporadic, but always in attack mode and always ready to change the game. Chris Bosh has been a stallion for the Heat, particularly with his rebounding but also with mostly-consistent scoring. But the Thunder’s third member of its elite brigade has not lived up to this status.
Harden has not played well in this series. Harden had a big Game 2, with 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting. But Harden was 2-of-6 shooting with only five points in Game 1, and Sunday night had just nine points on 2-of-10 shooting.
The Thunder can’t win three more games against Miami with Harden playing like that. Harden reached double-digit scoring in all 15 games this post-season before the Heat series. In this series, Harden is averaging 11.7 points, 3.7 assists and 1.7 turnovers. He’s shooting 40.7 from the field.
That’s role-player numbers. The Thunder can’t survive Miami with those numbers.
Harden’s drives to the baskets were not turned away by Dallas, the Lakers and San Antonio, even though those teams deployed big, post-eating defenders. The Heat does not. The Heat plays with burly, mid-sized, elite defenders. Bosh is big inside but isn’t exactly Bill Russell. Udonis Haslem is rugged but not a rim defender. So Miami has shown that the key to corralling Harden is to stay in front of him. Don’t let him get to the basket.
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