Oklahoma City and its fans may be asking a similar question during this year’s NBA Finals – Where in the world is James Harden?
Harden, who has been a weapon for the Thunder off the bench, has been almost invisible in the four games so far. With the exception of a 21-point performance in a Game 2 loss, Harden has been held under double digits in the scoring column.
Harden is averaging 32 minutes per game during the Finals and is averaging 10.8 points per game. The Sixth Man of the Year award winner is averaging more minutes than in the regular season in this series, but is way below the 16.8 points per game in the regular season.
In a series that is showcasing a trio of talented players for each team, Harden’s performance so far is less than subpar. The Thunder’s bench consists of a defensive mindset so Harden provides the offense off the bench.
Harden, however, seems to be struggling under the bright lights that shine on the NBA Finals. One possession late in Game 4 pretty much summed up Harden’s struggles in this series.
After a steal of Heat guard Dwyane Wade, Harden dribbled up the floor and used his body to shield Wade. Unfortunately, Harden was too focused on Wade and missed the layup that would’ve given the Thunder the lead early in the fourth quarter.
Harden has always had an aggressive style to his game when penetrating to the basket. The first round selection hasn’t shown that aggressiveness to the bucket and has allowed the Heat defense to alter his game.
It’s hard to tell whether Miami’s rotating defense has gotten into Harden’s head or not, but it has definitely frustrated him on the floor. Harden, who hit 39 percent from 3-point range in the regular season, is only 4-of-14 from behind the arc in this series.
Harden missed two wide open 3-point shots late in the fourth quarter in game 4 that could’ve changed the outcome of the game for the Thunder. It was those kinds of shots that Harden hit in the first three rounds that got Oklahoma City to Finals.
But if Harden doesn’t find his game and starting hitting those shots, Oklahoma City will be nothing but a brief memory in the NBA Finals.