James Harden had an uncharacteristically bad showing in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals as the Thunder lost 101-98 to the Spurs.
Harden scored 19 points in that game and was 7-for-17 from the field but did not attempt a single free throw for the first time this year.
Harden did not look himself as the Spurs’ game plan to defend the Thunder in the pick-and-roll worked very well.
The Spurs basically let the Thunder ball handler come off the screen with no pressure and gave them space, playing to defend the drive.
For Harden, this seemed to work especially well. Harden’s game is simple when you look at where he attacks the defense. He either shoots threes or attacks the rim and does very little in between.
Harden hit a few threes in the game but couldn’t get anything going toward the rim. The Spurs were ready for him and contested without fouling and also drew two charges on him.
The midrange pull-up jump shot was the look San Antonio was conceding Harden and he rarely took it. Harden rarely takes midrange shots in general, attempting just 1.1 shots per game this season from between 10-to-15 feet.
In Game 2, we saw Harden adjust.
Here we see Harden confidently take three midrange jump shots and make all of them. This helped to open up the rest of Harden’s offensive game as well.
Harden scored 30 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field and from the free throw line. Harden only attempted one 3-pointer in the game too.
Having Harden play well is vitally important for the Thunder and while Oklahoma City is still down 0-2 in the series, it would feel a lot worse if Harden had played two poor games as well.
Expect Harden along with Durant and Westbrook to play a little better when they are at home for Games 3 and 4 and get this series back even at 2-2.