Chicago Sun-Times

Slumping Harden has bruised wrist, expected to play

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Several factors have put the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 3-1 hole in the NBA Finals, but the most tangible and obvious is James Harden's shooting/scoring slump. Harden, the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year, has scored 9 and 8 points in two game at American Airlines Arena, shooting 2-for-10 in each game.

Complicating matters further is a bruised left hand Harden suffered in Game 4. He had the hand wrapped up prior to Wednesday's practice but is expected to play in Game 5.

Harden, who scored five points in Game 1 and 21 in Game 2, is averaging 10.8 points per game, six below his season average. His three single-digit scoring games in the series equal the number of single-digit games he had in the entire regular season.

The worst sign for Harden was his uncharacteristic tentativeness in the fourth quarter, when he hesitated on an open shot to take a difficult one and missed. He later missed a driving layup when Dwyane Wade was merely chasing him. Without the gifted athleticism of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Harden's aggressiveness and willingness to shoot is the key to his game.

Yeah, I have a lot of confidence in my shot. Just by talking and putting the work in every single day. It's definitely frustrating when those shots get open and don't go in, but you've got to continue to play. Especially for a player like me, I rely on more than just shooting, on just scoring the basketball. Obviously that aspect of my game has to be picked up in order for us to win games. Despite the secod consecutive poor game Tuesday, he said he has not lost confidence.

''Yeah, I have a lot of confidence in my shot,'' Harden said. '' Just by talking and putting the work in every single day. It's definitely frustrating when those shots get open and don't go in, but you've got to continue to play.

''Especially for a player like me, I rely on more than just shooting, on just scoring the basketball. Obviously that aspect of my game has to be picked up in order for us to win games.''

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on June 21, 2012 12:12 AM.

The Heat is On: LeBron James 'should be fine' for Game 5 was the previous entry in this blog.

'Full-speed ahead' running Thunder into trouble is the next entry in this blog.

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