Mismatch off bench could make Harden first reserve NBA Finals MVP
Something special for all ages is reserved for us in this year’s NBA Finals.
Two domineering players in their prime in the Miami Heat’s LeBron James and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant will square off in a telling Finals war that could decide more than a team championship - it could also determine who the best basketball player to grace the hardwood is.
James needs and craves this win, while Durant wants and desires it. But neither one of them will walk away with the hardware to show who has the advantage over whom. That may be reserved for a man watching both from the bench in the opening minutes.
NBA 6th Man of the Year James Harden has been nothing short of spectacular in the playoffs and could be nothing short of an NBA Finals MVP, considering what the cold Heat bench intends to throw at him throughout this series. With Chris Bosh working his way back into the starting lineup, no Heat bench player has averaged more than five points per game. Harden alone can get five points within one minute of a contest and cruise to being the Finals’ most domineering player.
The bearded combo guard danced through the aging Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers in the first two rounds before outplaying All-Star Manu Ginobili down the stretch in the Thunder’s Western Conference Finals comeback victory over the San Antonio Spurs. His 16.5 points per game average this postseason is almost as much as his regular season average (16.8). The 22-year-old Harden's opponent: Possibly 33-year-old Shane Battier or 32-year-old Mike Miller, both of whom have combined for only two 16-plus-point games this entire season. Battier is a capable defender, but Harden can and will be a point guard of screen and roll plays, making Battier too battered on the defensive end to even try to match Harden’s bench work. Miller, meanwhile, is everything Battier is…well, except for the defense part.
It is expected to see James and Wade spend their time monitoring Harden, but Russell Westbrook and Durant will keep them plenty busy for such a job. Harden has to be licking his chops at what could be the easiest bench to deal with this postseason. The level of effort James and fellow All-Star Dwyane Wade (while working through a knee injury) had to exert to overcome the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers (while down 2-1) and veteran-laden Boston Celtics (facing elimination twice) en route to a repeat Finals performance relieves all Heat fans, but should raise eyebrows to everyone else.
Harden exacted his skills against more championship-level competition in the West playoffs, coming through during game and series deficits with clutch plays and tremendous guile in leading the Thunder reserves, making him more than ready to handle whatever the Heat think they’ll throw at him. I’m sure sharpshooter James Jones will also look to get in on the tall task, but Harden’s average night covers Jones, Miller and Battier’s performances combined. The trio averages 13.1 points per game total in the playoffs. “Three-headed monster,” meet your long-bearded Godzilla.
All the past Finals MVPs started games and finished them well. But none of them watched from the bench upon tip-off. Harden plays starter’s minutes, but winning teams need a star off the bench as much as one in the starting lineup. That provides balance throughout the crucial minutes of games; piling the best players with no spark off the bench could be disastrous if the starters struggle mightily. Harden could easily start on any other team, including his own squad, but momentum is the method of an NBA coach’s madness. Jason Terry did it last year in the Mavericks’ title run, Lamar Odom during the Lakers’ reign as NBA champions and even James Posey during the Boston Celtics’ dominance in the 2007-08 championship campaign.
On the grandest stage of professional basketball, never before have I seen a reserve have potential to impose a Shaquille O’Neal-like will on an NBA Finals series. James and Durant may cancel each other out in what should be a classic battle, while Wade and Westbrook make for a heated and explosive match-up. But Harden vs. “Who?” is the catalyst that can change everything for both teams, as well signal the change of the (starting) guard in NBA history, a bench player achieving arguably the game’s most definitive awards for the first time.
Yeah I see what you're saying, but no. Especially after Harden's underwhelming showing in game 1. As far as who can guard Harden, Battier comes to mind. He's not the defender Wade or Lebron are, but he's still an elite defender and can limit Harden's impact.
You realise if Harden starts lighting it up Lebron will just switch to him right? Harden's not winning any Finals MVP, slow your roll.
Also, this is in NFL fantasy football for some reason? What?
“I would like to play my whole career here. That’s a given,” Gibson told HOOPSWORLD at the start of training camp. “This is a great city, great organization, great people, and it would be a dream come true (to stay).”,.jkliu87
“Absolutely. They did what they were supposed to do and win two games at home, and they did nothing. We just had to make sure we come home and take care of our two and we go in for Game 5,” Perkins said.
The Houston Rockets tied up one more piece of unfinished business on Saturday night, trading disgruntled Kevin Martin to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a deal that landed James Harden in Houston. The Rockets also send Jeremy Lamb and future draft considerations to Oklahoma City. The Thunder also send Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston in the trade./,./k