James Harden had his best game of the playoffs in Game 4 of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first round series against the Dallas Mavericks. Harden totaled 29 points, five boards, five assists and three steals off the bench as his hot fourth-quarter shooting effectively ended the Mavericks’ season.
Harden’s fourth-quarter performance was needed because the Mavericks weren’t going down without a fight and neither of the team’s two biggest stars was playing well enough to put Dallas away. Harden erupted though pouring in 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter.
But will the team continue to go to him down the stretch? The Thunder are most likely to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the playoffs which means he will see a whole lot of Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace at the end of games.
All three are very good defensively. They are long, strong and crafty making it much harder for him to get his shot off.
And as you can see the Lakers are much deeper defensively than the Mavericks are. Dallas only had one really good defender who could guard someone like Harden on the perimeter and that was Shawn Marion.
Marion spent a lot of time checking Kevin Durant though which helped Harden a lot. Delonte West and Jason Kidd are alright but neither one is as good defensively as they used to be. Once the Mavericks decided to switch Marion over to Harden it was too late.
But if the Thunder are going to get past the Lakers in the second round then they will need Harden to continue to play at a high level. Russell Westbrook and Durant are going to continue to do what they do but Harden’s play off the bench will be the key to getting the Thunder over the hump if they plan on playing in the Western Conference Finals for the second year in a row.
The Thunder won the season series with the Lakers 2-1 but the Lakers are playing on a different level in the playoffs. Thunder’s coach Scott Brooks will make sure that the “bearded one” knows how important he will be to their next series, specifically when it’s closing time.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at RHall_TPFB@Yahoo.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.
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