Miami has been able to control Harden like no other team. And not just in the playoffs. This has been a yearlong occurrence. Harden has been held to less than 10 points only six times this season. The Heat has now done it twice in six days.
“They're defending him well,” Collison said. “They're really getting out and ‘hedging' ball screens. They've done that (before). We knew that coming into this series. That's something that they're good at.”
The Heat's defense is hounding Harden, making things tough by blowing up ball screens and aggressively attacking Harden in the pick-and-roll. Miami has prevented Harden from either turning the corner or resorting to his preferred method of splitting the screen and driving into the paint.
Miami players and coach Erik Spolestra fancy themselves on saying Harden is simply missing shots. The truth is the Heat's defense has taken Harden right out of the Thunder's offense.
“The way the games have gone he hasn't had as many opportunities as he usually does,” Collison said.
Miami's small lineup is causing Harden most of his problems. Because the Heat refuses to play a true center, Miami has a quartet of athletic wing players and agile big men in Battier, James, Bosh and Udonis Haslem to aggressively meet Harden beyond the arc on ball screens. They're funneling Harden sideways and forcing him to pass off instead of allowing him to attacking with a head of steam.
“That's the Heat's DNA, they always do a great job on pick-and-roll situations,” said Durant. “Just making guys get off the basketball, and James is a good passer so things are going to open up for him. We got to try to get him more involved. He'll be fine … We got to help him out.”