Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com on OKC’s sweep: “Harden also proved he could be the solution to arguably the Thunder’s biggest weakness: an offense that is often overreliant on jumpers, especially late in games. Success on the perimeter is never going to draw comparisons to a “buzzsaw.” That only happens when the damage is inflicted right down the middle, piercing drives that make a team’s defense collapse, scramble and flail repeatedly. Harden — not Durant or Westbrook — brings that offensive element when he’s at his best, and that’s why the Thunder left Dallas on Saturday appearing to Carlisle as if a trophy could be in their near future.”
Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game: “You know what they say: If you’re going to lose a winnable series in four games, at least go out in an exhibition for one of the game’s most fantastically understated players, supplying the wood for his buzzsaw in what one can ultimately assume will be a daunting display of razor-focused finesse and craftsmanship. James Harden (29 points, 11-16 FG, 3-4 3FG, five rebounds, five assists) gets a raw deal because the public’s attention span can only extend to two star teammates at a time, but he’s far too good to be relegated as some distant third, and far too lethal to be ignored, even for a second. Dallas tried a number of coverages from a variety of directions in the fourth quarter, but none of it mattered — Harden attacked from the same point on the floor at the same angle, repeatedly bludgeoning the Mavericks with his own unique grace. And, as an important extension: credit upon credit to Scott Brooks, who afforded Harden the opportunities he needed without the slightest interference.”
Berry Tramel on Derek Fisher: “But we forgot one thing. The Thunder didn’t sign Fisher to play against the Timberwolves in March or against the Kings in April. The Thunder signed Fisher for the playoffs. Signed Fisher for the games that are paramount. Signed Fisher for the series in which possessions are magnified, the series in which guts and guile rise in value. Old man? No fooling. Old man winner.”
Andrew Rafner for TBJ on James Harden: “If there is one player in these NBA playoffs you should be watching their every move, it’s James Harden. He’s Andrew Toney meets Manu Ginobili. He’s unselfish and wild and different and weird and confusing. James Harden should be your favorite player and not just cause he wears a tiny jersey and has that really cool beard, but because he believes in the spirit and culture the Oklahoma City Thunder have cultivated as meticulously as Harden has his own look. Everyone’s talking about James Harden. You should be too.”
This First Take debate completely misses the point. Pun maybe intended. I’m not sure.
ESPN Stats and Info on Harden: “He’s the 1st player with 25-5-5 off the bench in a playoff game since Manu Ginobili in 2007 against the Suns. Harden is the only the 4th bench player in the last 15 seasons with a 25-5-5 game in the playoffs.”
More Golliver on OKC: “The Thunder now lay claim to “best first round performance of the 2012 playoffs” after they put the finishing touches on the defending champs. OKC showed a heck of a lot in this series. They executed late in games, they blew the Mavericks off the court in Game 3, they played solid team defense, they kept their composure through rough play, they won without their stars playing A+ basketball and they showed that James Harden can be a transformative offensive presence in the postseason with his ability to get to the basket and make the right reads. They did it all against a quality opponent. Other than more consistent shooting numbers from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, I’m not sure what else you could ask for.”
Darnell Mayberry: “Remember the time when Thunder had no answer for Dirk Nowitzki? Remember when he thoroughly torched your team and there wasn’t a thing OKC could do about it? Remember how you watched Dirk demolish the Thunder and could only think about how bad you wanted a player like that? Well meet James Harden. The Thunder’s sixth man stuck it to Dallas again in the playoffs. This time he did it while delivering a win. When does Harden get his own “BIG” commercial, NBA? Because that’s what he was on this night, and it’s what he’s been all year.”