We used to think the best part of James Harden was his beard. Not anymore. Not with the way he helped spearhead a huge 106-100 Game 2 win for the Thunder by scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter. After a first game that saw Dallas’ bench chew up the Thunder reserves, it looks like someone took it upon himself to make things right. Actually they all took it personal. Nick Collison (six points, seven rebounds), Eric Maynor (13 points), Daequan Cook (eight points) and most importantly Harden (23 points, seven rebounds, four treys) all contributed. The bench was so good, they combined with Kevin Durant (24 points) to play the entire fourth quarter, staving off Dirk and the Mavs. In the fourth quarter Nowitzki was destroying Collison (who is dangerously close to hitting that point where someone goes from underappreciated to overrated), destroying him on the box, finishing with 16 of his 29 points in the final frame. Collison wasn’t forcing him into tough shots. Dirk was at the rim almost every time he touched it. Yet it wasn’t enough. OKC kept the lead because Harden was a beast. At the end of the third, he hit a four-point play, and then in the fourth had five straight points in the middle of the quarter that gave OKC some breathing room. But the real dagger was a run of possessions with four minutes left. Dallas turned it over on two straight trips, and then Harden hit an end-of-the-shot-clock launch against Jason Terry that was preceded by a crossover, a behind-the-back and a step-back. Awesome. All of a sudden, the Thunder were up 10 and the game was basically over … How will Russell Westbrook respond? He was visibly frustrated in the second half, and ended up sitting the entire fourth quarter. It wasn’t his fault. He was ballin’ (18 points), but the bench was playing so well, Scottie Brooks had to bite the bullet. The last time Westbrook was questioned, he showed up with a Game 7 triple-double. What’s gonna happen in Game 3? … Near the end of the first quarter, Durant drove right and crammed one all over Brendan Haywood. Mr. Carlisle, next time you should tell Peja to back up. Was that one of the top playoffs dunks of this century? Magic Johnson called it one of the five best playoff dunks he’s ever seen, amazingly without yelling something like, “DURANT IS BACK! HE’S BACK!” … It’s bad that it has come to a point where announcers are scolding young players like Durant to learn to flop better. Where did we go wrong? Was it when we felt bad for Vlade guarding Shaq and let him get away with it? Instead of trying to cut the guaranteed contracts in half, how about the owners just focus on cutting flopping in half. We’d be happy with that … Dallas went on a 10-0 run early in the first after Jason Kidd (13 points, five steals) found Shawn Marion for a dunk and then threw two straight lobs to Tyson Chandler (15 points, 13 rebounds). It wasn’t looking good for the Thunder; Dallas’ offense was flowing, Chandler had caught something like 28 alley-oops and the bench hadn’t even come in yet. But somehow, OKC weathered the early storm, and then settled into Harden pick-n-rolls on every possession early in the second quarter. Considering that Harden always makes something good happen, why doesn’t Scott Brooks go to more of these? Dallas supposedly has the better bench, but it was the OKC subs that found a way to create a 16-point turnaround. During a run spanning from the end of the first to the beginning of the second quarter, the Thunder bench scored on 10 straight trips … J.J. Barea (11 points). Seriously. First, we find out he’s completely broken the laws of physics by making a six-point jump and nabbing a former Miss Universe. Now, the dude has become the Tyronn Lue of these playoffs. Everything’s falling his way right now … And who decided it was a good idea to have the announcers standing during the opening comments? It helped remind us how small the Notorious J.V.G. is. He looks just like an older version of Dan Gilbert‘s swagged-out son, minus the swag … We’re out like Boozer on the mic.
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