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Maybe James Harden thought he was playing a different sport during the 2012 NBA Finals.
Apparently, at Arizona State, they teach players that you play basketball until you get to the finals. Then, it switches gears and football is the soup du jour. At least, that's what I'm assuming based on this picture.
All kidding aside, Harden was completely ineffective against the Miami Heat after absolutely tearing apart everyone else in the playoffs. The Thunder needed him to dominate off the bench, but he was dominated by the moment.
This was never more true than at the end of Game 4. He received a pass but looked off a wide-open shot. Then, he failed to pass to a wide open Kevin Durant before forcing a shot that had no choice but to clank off the rim. He looked terrified—beard and all.
Harden scored in single-digits four times during the regular season. Through the first three series of the postseason, he never did and instead upped his averages each time the pressure went up a notch.
However, after averaging 18.5 points per game against the San Antonio Spurs, Harden averaged only 12.4 in the finals. That average is boosted by 21 and 19 performances, the latter coming in the Game 5 blowout.
Harden can't afford to score five, nine and eight points during the biggest games of the season. For a player that gives off such an aura of confidence, he has to actually back it up.