The Thunder tried to downplay the Harden reunion angle, but Durant admitted it “felt a little awkward, looking across there and seeing him with another team. We gotta get past that.”
The Thunder got past it just fine in Game 1 of this Western Conference playoff series. Most possessions started with Thabo Sefolosha dogging Harden, but when the Thunder switches — with Durant or Russell Westbrook or even Serge Ibaka moving onto Harden — it neutralizes Houston's pick-and-roll offense.
No one knows better than Oklahoma City how productive Harden can be in the pick-and-roll.
The Thunder was a little aggressive early, which both frustrated Harden but also sent him to the line for four foul shots in the first quarter. But he got only three foul shots the final three quarters.
“James on this team has to shoulder a ton of responsibility for us,” said McHale. “He's had an all-pro type year. He'll play better. We ask him to do an awful lot for us. Handle the ball, make plays. He had it going for a little bit.”
But not for long. This game was over after three quarters, and now you know why the Thunder threw the D-League championship series by bringing back the Tulsa 66ers' best players for this game. DeAndre Liggins and Perry Jones were needed for mopup duty.
“Believe it or not, this was good for us,” Harden said. “We were kind of shell-shocked. Now we know how to play.”
Trouble is, the Thunder now knows how to play, too. Guard the Rockets like this, and this series will be over soon.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.