Harden Underscores Resiliency of Thunder Roster

The moment he stepped on the court, James Harden made his presence felt and gave the Thunder offense a desperately needed boost early in Game 2.

The Thunder had hit only one of its first 12 shots and trailed the Miami Heat, 16-2, with 5 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Enter Harden, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.

He hit his first shot, a 3-pointer from the wing, and would score 10 of the Thunder’s 15 points in the period, with each basket coming at a time when the floodgates were about to open. The 10 points, the highest total in the quarter for either team, doubled his output in Game 1.

“James had a good, aggressive game going,” Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks. “He was making shots, he was making good decisions.”

Harden added seven points in the second quarter – also the most by any player – and finished with 21 points in the 100-96 loss Thursday night, underscoring the resiliency of the Thunder roster and the confidence to bounce back from adversity.

Those traits were on full display in the fourth quarter, when the Thunder stormed back from an 11-point deficit after three quarters and pulled within two with 12.3 seconds remaining.

Harden scored baskets on two determined drives to the hoop during at 14-7 run that cranked up the volume in Chesapeake Energy Arena, the first pulling the Thunder within 82-76, the second making it 87-83.

“I think we did a pretty good job in the second half of fighting and coming back, but by then it was too late,” Harden said.

So the best-of-seven series now shifts to Miami for three games, beginning Sunday. The Thunder has had success on the road in its march to the NBA Finals, winning two games in Dallas and one in both Los Angeles and San Antonio.

“We’ve done a great job all postseason of having very good starts, especially at home,” Harden said. “These last couple of games have been slow, but we’ll pick it up in Game 3.

Said Brooks: “We didn’t come out with the toughness that we need to come out with. We’re an aggressive team, we’re a physical team. Our defensive mindset was not where it needs to be and hopefully we change that going into Game 3.”