Since entering the league back in 2009, James Harden has played a vital role in the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
His minutes, points, assists, and field goal percentage have all increased in each of his first three seasons, and his contributions off the bench culminated in him winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award this season.
Despite all this, Harden apparently never received the memo informing him when the Finals actually got underway, because to this point -- he's yet to show up.
|Photo by: Mike Ehrmann|
Even more unfathomable than Harden's overall uninspiring play, is the fact that while Russell Westbrook continues to get hammered for his unorthodox point guard style (yeah, I mean, forget the fact that he had 43 points and one of the greatest 4th quarter performances in recent playoff history last night) and Kevin Durant is being called out for not playing aggressively enough -- Harden has all but been given a free pass for spending the majority of these NBA Finals stinking up the joint.
The question is, why?
His 21-point Game 2 performance aside (which Oklahoma City lost by the way), Harden has scored 5, 9, and 8 points in the other three games. This coming from a guy who averaged nearly 17 per during the regular season.
And it's not just his lack of scoring either. Harden has had costly turnovers at pivotal points throughout the series, missed layups that would have given OKC the lead late on two separate occasions, and in general -- failed to pull the trigger on wide open looks down the stretch of games when the Thunder were still very much within striking distance of winning. Multiple times in last night's contest alone.
To say Harden has been atrocious would be an understatement. In fact, the bottom line is -- he's probably the primary reason Oklahoma City finds themselves on the brink of elimination heading into Thursday night.
Fortunately for him, there's still time to raise this rapidly sinking ship.
If the James Harden of old shows up for Game 5 and confidently (as in, without hesitation or second thought) shoots from the outside, draws fouls while penetrating the lane, and uses his exceptional court vision to get other guys involved on the offensive end -- we could be heading back to OKC for Game 6.
If the James Harden that has shown up for the biggest part of this series rears his ugly head yet again tomorrow night -- the coronation of LeBron James will officially be in full-swing.