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Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC shut down James Harden and the Rockets in Game 1, now can they do it again?

For a player who was widely viewed as the Thunder's best ballhandler and most effective creator in half-court sets, James Harden's inability to shine in half-court sets served as a microcosm of how stingy OKC's defense was in Game 1. Can the Thunder now do it again?
by Darnell Mayberry Published: April 23, 2013

To understand how effective the Thunder's defense was against Houston in Game 1, you must first examine the performance of James Harden.

There isn't a single indicator of the team's success quite as revealing as how the Thunder shut down its former sixth man.

In its 120-91 win Sunday, the Thunder held Harden to 20 points on 19 shots. Those numbers alone are sufficient in showing how much he struggled. But closer inspection makes it impossible to not credit Oklahoma City's defense for hounding Harden into such a below average night.

Just look at how Harden scored.

In half-court sets, Harden was 2-for-15. Where he did most of his damage was in transition, where he was 4-for-4.

For a player who was widely viewed as the Thunder's best ballhandler and most effective creator in half-court sets, Harden's inability to shine in half-court sets served as a microcosm of how stingy OKC's defense was throughout the night.

“They have players that are dynamic and an offensive team that can score points in bundles,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks of the Rockets. “So we have to really be on point with all of our defensive core values and I thought we did that (Sunday) night very well.

“We didn't allow them a lot of easy shots and that's important. They have players that can make tough shots so you can't allow them to get any easy shots because then the basket becomes just way too big and it's hard to stop players like that.”

The question going into Wednesday night's Game 2 is simple.

Can the Thunder now do it again?

In a series that's been all about defense, defense and more defense for the Thunder, replicating the effort seen in Game 1 would go a long way toward OKC taking a 2-0 lead before heading to Houston.

The Thunder held the Rockets to 36.3 percent shooting, forced them to miss 28 of their 36 3-point attempts and limited Houston to 20 fast-break points, yielding only 11 in the first half.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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