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NBA Finals: Miami defense has focused on taking out James Harden

The Thunder's sixth man is well below his scoring and shooting averages in the Finals.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: June 18, 2012

MIAMI — The Oklahoma City Thunder's three stars have combined to score 201 points through three games of the NBA Finals.

The Miami Heat's best three players in this series have scored 202 points.

It's true. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden have been outscored by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and … Shane Battier.

Not quite the battle of the big three we envisioned at the outset of this series, is it?

But that's become the Thunder's reality, and the reason being has to do with Harden pulling a vanishing act. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year has sputtered out of gate in his first trip to the Finals, and it's a leading reason why the Thunder is trailing the Heat 2-1 entering Tuesday night's Game 4.

“I think a lot of it's what they're doing,” said Nick Collison. “They're defending him really well.”

Harden entered this championship series averaging 17.6 points in the postseason. He had connected on 45.2 percent of his field-goal attempts.

Against the Heat, Harden has averaged 11.7 points on 40.7 percent shooting. He has registered as many fouls (11) as he has assists.

“He's their most efficient player when you let him get to his whole package,” said Battier. “We just have to keep making him work. Keep him off the foul line and try to keep running him off the 3-point line.”

Battier, behind some coldblooded sharp shooting, has supplanted Heat forward Chris Bosh as the third wheel to the Heat's hard-to-stop attack. But with Bosh surprisingly taking on more of a bruiser's role on the low block, his hustle, coupled with Battier's shooting and Harden's subpar play, has turned this series into the Heat's big four versus the Thunder's big two.

“We know he's a big part of their team so we just try to keep him from going off,” said Heat guard Mario Chalmers.

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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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