Harden To Swallow

20 06 2012

And just like that, the NBA Finals will be coming to a close in the near future and the young Thunder seem to be getting younger by the second.

The Miami Heat remained calm and overcame a 17-point first half deficit to take down the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-98 and take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Even though LeBron James (26 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds) and Dwyane Wade (25 points, two steals, two blocks) continued to play as superstars are expected to play, this victory was brought to you in part by Mario Chalmers. The former Kansas Jayhawk looked like he was playing in the national championship again with 25 points and three 3-pointers. Additionally, he put in five of these points in the last minute of the game when LeBron was on the bench with a cramp. (Didn’t that cramp seem more like a broken leg by his facial expressions – just me?)

Yet again, this team had one of their non-Big 3 play out of their minds and confuse NBA analysts. Shane Battier carried this load during the first two games in which he strung together two consecutive 17 point games. Game 3 was a combined effort between four players. Tuesday showed us the little brother finally playing at a level that stopped his teammates from yelling at him as he scored five times the amount of points he had in Game 2 and Game 3 combined.

On the other side, the much more deflated team doesn’t understand where James Harden has gone. Seemingly nowhere to be found on most offensive possessions, the Thunder’s spark off the bench shot 2-10 from the field and only put up eight points to go along with four turnovers. His lackluster play was epitomized during one of the Thunder’s final possessions. After receiving a pick,  Harden was staring right at a wide open 15-footer but decided to just dribble in place for a long second, looking like a middle school basketball player trying to figure out if he can shoot that far yet. This possession ended like it started – with a two possession deficit.

Other than his contrasting 21 points in Game 2, the Sixth Man of the Year is averaging 7.33 points on an abysmal 24.4 percent shooting. That’s worse than what Ramon Sessions produced against Harden’s team. Ouch.

It can’t be more evident that this team goes as the Beard goes. For the most part, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook get theirs. Yes, I would say Westbrook got plenty Tuesday with his 43 points on 20-32 shooting. But the flow of the offense falls flat without the ball consistently going through Harden’s hands. He adds a crafty element that his team’s pure scorers just can’t seem to add like he can. Without his involvement at the end of games, their offense becomes blatantly obvious for defenses to figure out.

The bearded man’s disappearance from this series has not only been the biggest disappointment for all fans of the eurostep (if they actually are out there), but it also might be one of the main reasons Oklahoma City will go home without anymore games to play until the 2012-2013 season.

No doubt about it, this series is over. How have we gotten to this point? Because the Heat have put together a spark comparable if not equal to the Harden that we have become so intrigued with. Shane Battier. Mario Chalmers. Norris Cole. Yes, Norris Cole. It is as if these three have collectively taken on Harden’s role while Harden has played like each of these players in three of the four Finals games. How is Scott Brooks supposed to prepare for a team that has men scoring 10 and 15 points above their normal average? He can’t. The six stars in these Finals all had their fair share of “x-factor” titles that they received prior to the start of the series. Up to this point, though, this has been about an odder trio than the Bobcats Big 3 and a scoring punch off one team’s bench that has misplace his gloves.

This is why the Heat are up 3-1. This is why LeBron and Wade can penetrate and kick it out with faith that their teammates can actually make plays. This is why the Thunder look lost at the end of games since their best ballhandler doesn’t know what to do with the rock anymore. This is why LeBron James will soon get his ring.

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4 responses

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20 06 2012
edpenn13

Its honestly bewildering how awful Harden has been this series. What you say about him being a middle school player is both hilarious and true. I was screaming “shoot!” as he just stood there, standing awkwardly unsure of what to do. It look like it’s destiny for King James but I still feel like anything can happen. At the end of the day, all 4 games have been unbelievably close. If a few plays just go Oklahoma’s way…we could see a huge comeback. It’s a very small “could” though.
(great writing!)

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