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NBA Finals 2012: James Harden's Shooting Woes Will Cost Thunder Series

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 17:  James Harden #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder stands on court with his head down in the second half against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 17, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Matt ShetlerCorrespondent IJune 18, 2012

For the Oklahoma City Thunder, blame can be assigned to multiple different people for handing Game 3 to the Miami Heat, but one thing is certain, and that's Sixth Man of the Year James Harden should be getting many fingers pointed his way.

It's also very clear that Harden is doing his best to shoot the Thunder out of the series, and if he doesn't correct his shooting woes soon, OKC won't make it back home for Game 6.

Harden is a guy who shot 49.1 percent from the floor and averaged 16.8 points per game during the regular season. While he's averaged 16.6 PPG in the playoffs, that shooting percentage is down to 44.6 percent.

It's even worse in the finals, as Harden is averaging 11.7 points and has made only 40.6 percent of his attempts (11-of-27). That number includes Game 2 where Harden was very good, scoring 21 points, making 7-of-11 shot attempts.

As the Thunder let a double-digit, second-half lead slip away in Game 3, Harden made only 1-of-4 shots in the second half, finishing the game only 2-of-10. In addition, Harden was 0-of-4 from behind the arc, missed two free throws, turned the ball over twice, and his flop that led to a blocking call with 16 seconds left turned out to be a killer.

While Harden certainly has had some big moments in the playoffs, he's had some very bad ones as well, shooting under 40 percent in nine of the Thunder's 18 postseason games. Even worse, he's shot under 33 percent in seven of those games.

For the Thunder to claim an NBA championship, their Big Three must perform like one.

Point guard Russell Westbrook has taken his share of criticism this series and it's probably well deserved, but Harden's struggles are just as big.

For the Thunder, it all boils down to winning three of the next four games. They can't do that if Harden doesn't start shooting the ball better.

He has the ability to shoot OKC to an NBA championship.

However, Harden also has the ability to shoot them right out of the series.

Much was made after the Game 2 loss of whether or not Scott Brooks should consider starting Harden.

Forget starting—Oklahoma City just needs to see him play well or this series is all but over.

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