james harden

The Heat’s defense is hounding Harden. Miami is making things tough by blowing up ball screens and aggressively attacking Harden in the pick-and-roll, preventing him from either turning the corner or resorting to his preferred method of splitting the screen and driving into the paint. The Heat’s aggression has taken Harden completely out of the offense.

“The three times we’ve played them, they’ve done a good job with James; of really attacking his dribble and trapping his pick-and-rolls,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks following his team’s shootaround Thursday morning. “But he has to figure that out by moving it quickly and attacking the outside foot of the bigs. I expect him to do that much better tonight.”

Miami’s small lineup is causing Harden most of his problems. With LeBron James, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem serving as the Heat’s “bigs,” Harden is being met by athletic wings in James and Battier, and an agile power forward in Haslem, after using the screen. They’re effectively cutting off his space and forcing Harden to give up the ball.

“That’s the Heat’s DNA, they always do a great job on pick-and-roll situations,” said Kevin Durant.

– Reported by Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman (Blog)