MIAMI, Fla. — With bloodshot eyes, Thunder reserve guard James Harden tried to explain perhaps his most excruciating nights in the NBA.
In the Thunder's 104-98 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night, Harden shot just 2 for 10 from the field, 1 for 5 from 3-point range, had four turnovers and committed five fouls.
On a positive note, he finished with a team-high 10 rebounds, but managed just eight points — less than half his season average.
Harden missed shots from far and near at American Airlines Arena. Several wide-open attempts rattled in and out.
With 10:00 left in the game, Harden came up with a steal, but struggled to get his steps right and missed a driving layup.
And with nothing going right on offense, Harden then headed to the opposite end of the court, where his assignment much of the game was to defend league MVP LeBron James.
Despite all the struggles, Harden still played nearly 37 minutes for the simple reason his coach still believed in him.
"I believe in all of our guys," Scott Brooks said afterward. "James has put us in a position to be where we are. He had a tough shooting night, but he competed, he battled, he fought, he defended, he was guarding one of the best players in the game. I don't judge a guy's game on shots, on makes and misses. This game is about makes and misses.
"Some nights you're going to make those, some nights you're going to miss them, but your effort has to be there. I love James' effort and that's all I judge him on. If he wasn't playing hard, yes, I would have taken him out earlier and sat him and put somebody else in. We have a standard of play and effort-wise I think everybody lived up to it tonight."
A near-unanimous selection as this season's Sixth Man of the Year, Harden has struggled throughout the Finals, shooting 35.1 percent (13 for 37) from the field, 28.6 percent (4 for 14) from 3-point range and averaging 10.8 points the first four games.