Harden Impacts Win on Both Ends of Court

The stat sheet will show the impact James Harden had in Game 2.

Fifteen points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.

What it will not show is the importance each of those numbers played in helping the Thunder to a 102-99 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 is Thursday night in Dallas.

Points: Harden was 10-for-10 from the free-throw line, the last four coming in the final 25.5 seconds after the Mavericks had twice pulled within one point. The Thunder as a team was 37-for-39 from the line.

“We’re an aggressive team, and all season we’ve been getting to the free-throw line,” Thunder forward Kevin Durant said. “We practice free throws every day in every situation. James loves that situation, getting up there and knocking them down with the game on the line.” Rebounds: His seven were second on the Thunder, trailing only the game-high 10 rebounds by Durant. But arguably no rebound was bigger than the one Harden secured with 25.5 seconds remaining following a missed shot attempt by the Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki.

Durant had just made two free throws to give the Thunder a 98-97 lead with 30.4 to play. The Mavericks went straight to Nowitzki, who released a one-foot fadeaway over the outstretched arm of Thunder forward Serge Ibaka. The ball bounced four times on the rim before Harden, working inside with center Kendrick Perkins, came down with it and immediately was fouled.

“We kept going back and forth, especially in that fourth quarter,” Harden said. “It was a one-point lead and it kept exchanging, so we had to really lock in and get some stops down the stretch and we did.”

Assists: Harden’s five assists were a team high and featured several deft touches, including a swing touch pass to his left to a wide open Derek Fisher in the corner with 5:25 to play in the game. Fisher, who finished 11 points, drained the 3-pointer to put the Thunder up, 92-88.

Steals: Harden had all three of his steals during a span of 7 minutes, 25 seconds covering the first and second quarters. During that time, the Thunder went on a 23-6 run – a run that started with a 3-pointer from Harden – to turn a one-point deficit into a 46-30 lead.

The run featured points from six different players and included seven of the Thunder’s nine total steals.

“Our intensity, helping each other on the defensive end, our communication and when we made them miss, we grabbed the rebound and we pushed it and got open threes and open layups,” Harden said, when asked what was behind that outburst. “That’s going to be the key, us getting stops and getting into transition and getting easy baskets.”