Stakes Raised For Thunder’s Harden

HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — In a battle of the two best lefty sixth men in basketball, Round 1 went to Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs.

With Oklahoma City’s James Harden, the reigning KIA Sixth Man of the Year, easing his way into Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, Ginobili kicked the door down with his scintillating performance.

While Harden struggled to figure out a defensive scheme designed to take away his bread and butter drive to the left, Ginobili was busy doing the things that make him one of the most dangerous playoff forces.

Now that he’s been outplayed by the opposing sixth man, albeit one that’s every bit as talented and even more accomplished, the stakes have been raised for Harden in Game 2. If Ginobili is going to impact the game (and perhaps this series) the way he did in Game 1 (season-high 26 points, 11 in the fourth quarter),  the Thunder need Harden to respond in kind.

It was his work that helped secure the Thunder’s first round sweep of the Mavericks. And it was his agitation of the Los Angeles Lakers that proved critical in the Thunder finishing Kobe Bryant and crew off in the conference semifinals. If the conference finals is to live up to all of the pre-series hype, Harden has to play a much more significant role than he did in Game 1. And he’ll certainly have to make his man-to-Manu battle a much more even affair if the Thunder hope to advance.

Harden dismissed the notion that the Spurs had some well-crafted defensive scheme that prevented him from doing his usual. “I just couldn’t make a layup,” he said. “Couldn’t make a layup. Couldn’t make a shot. But it happens. I’ve got to get back to work tomorrow in practice and be ready for Game 2.”

If only it was that simple.

The Spurs have seen their crafty lefty sixth man destroy teams for years. They know better than anyone what teams will do to try to prevent a player like that, Ginobili, from exploiting them. One of the staples of Harden’s game, drawing fouls and shooting free throws, was missing from the Game 1 action because Harden didn’t take any free throws.

“Well, it affected me,” Harden admitted. “Getting to the free-throw line and getting easy points definitely helps me. I just got to be ready. I’ve got to be aggressive and get to the basket to be able to finish in Game 2.”

The Thunder need a better start for Harden in Game 2 as well. He has to match Ginobili’s energy, creativity and force the issue for the Thunder as opposed to reading and trying to react to the collapsing defense designed to protect the rim. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich knows that his team is at a disadvantage trying to match up against the younger and quicker Thunder one on one.

Harden has to remember that as well if he’s going to win Round 2 in his one-on-one battle with Ginobili and change the game for OKC.


  1. 305 says:

    fundamentals, teamwork, coaching = spurs

  2. Dylan says:

    I can’t help but laugh at some of these posts. Nobody is talking about how badly OKC shot the ball throughout the game, but really only list by 6?(Hardens shot was definitely junk)

    Sorry, OKC will always force turnovers, so don’t expect to NOT turn it over more than twice in the first half, SAS fans. You don’t realize that you guys played an amazing 4th quarter. (get Jackson off Durant, refs, I mean really? LOL)
    Yet, OKC had a terrible 4th quarter. Durant takes 2 shots? Westbrook got out of control, was frustrated with the charges. Harden started playing well with a minute left… Lol.

    But as an OKC fan, I do think the Spurs win this if OKC doesn’t win game 2. Need to take one at home, hopefully take both at our house.

    But watching that 4th quarter by the Spurs was amazing basketball, all credit goes to GINOOBILIII!!! For getting to the FT line, getting the and 1 to put us out of reach. Great job.

  3. AEX says:


  4. killuabest says:

    fear d beard haha eat ur beard lol..ur facing spurs ur heart out okc fans..coz d champs are now in d bldg..

  5. agentyellow says:

    i give SAS credit to the win,.they capitalize the game and they adjust in thier defensive and haftcourt said,.even if they win by 3 points only we,win is a win 1point or 20 point win is a win,you guys just move on you can’t take and steal that win from spurs,.admit it,.spurs and OKC have thier own edge,.but i think all important is who will be much better defensively and offensively on the crunch time of the game,.i know every game this serries is down to the wire,.better execution down the strech will win the game!!spurs in 6

  6. Mind says:

    That’s what you called “DEFENSE” that’s the reason why harden & westbrook having difficulty to shoot. remember, not only manu can do score better for the team. don’t forget duncan and parker, they have also ability to get momentum of the game. greg popovich have a strategy to beat the OKC. guys, just focus on the play not only the player who can do better in the court. get it?

  7. Tony from Sydney says:

    Talking about experience, did lakers have enough experience against OKC? How about the Mavs? They were all world champs in the last few years and they run deep in the playoffs every yera. OKC has made stride every season for the past 4 season, and they were also in the conference finals last year, where they failed to the mkuch more experienced Dallas. Now that they’ve grown up even more, Spurs really have to play their A game to be able to beat OKC. That’s the bottom line. They won by 3 at home, first game back after more than a week, they were expected to win, and maybe even expected to win more comfortably. Yet this is not the case, and it’s only gonna get harder the next game. If OKC had played as physical as they did against Lakers, Spurs will be pretty much doomed. Watch out of the change of game plan next game.

  8. X says:

    Bald VS Beard

    Round 1 goes to Bald.

  9. trebor says:

    Lets face it.the series between okc and sas is all about experience.and sas is no doubt has plenty of it.if okc wants to win even a single game,they should be more consistent and be up to the challenge.

  10. Stryder9 says:

    Why do the OKC fans keep pointing to a hollow victory of, “We only lost by three?” The game was well decided before Harden made that last three pointer at the buzzard. That shot was just junk. If OKC just kept up their defensive pressure like they did for the first three quarters of the game, they probably would have won. Credit San Antonio for making the correct tweaks and dominating the fourth.

  11. sctx says:

    Spurs turned the ball over damn near every other possession in the 1st half and OKC played hard but did not capitalize with a big lead, that’s youth and inexperience kickin you. Looking forward to another great game Tuesday….. Spurs going for W #20 and coincidentally, that’s Manu’s number!

  12. froma players perspective says:

    Spurs has what is concidered a bad game, and OKC could not take advantage of it. I magine what is going to happen when they explode offensively. Fisher is not going to average 18 point a game, that was the only good thing OKC had going for them. Harden weeknesses have been exposed, Westbrook played as usual taking alot of forced shots. Durant will get his point but will be contained when is necesary. Perkin will have foul problems defending against Duncan. Game 1 only showed OKC wiknesses and by the 4th quarter the Spurs could adjust and win the Game, all that is going to happen is they are going to get better. Spurs 4-1 or 4-0 ????

  13. Tony from Sydney says:

    If it takes the spurs 39 points and top notch performance by Ginobillo to win by 3 points, then they are really in a lot of trouble. OKC did not play it’s top notch game by far, and yet they were able to keep the game close, and some how built a decent lead, just unfortunate that the spurs exploded in the 4th, well they are playing at home after all. The game should be played more physical for OKC though, as you can see the spurs are not interested in contact, only 3 freethrows attempted in the first half. That’s where the game plan would favor OKC. In the game that Duncan and Parker are both contained, Spurs will rely heavily on Ginobilli for them to have a chance to win. Good luck OKC in game 2, you are the team to beat this year.

  14. Ozman says:

    what about the spurs losing in the first round last year…weapons?

  15. 4th says:

    Awkward how Durant disappeared in the 4th (not for the first time either) and yet no one cares. Yet when lbj scores 9 points or so but misses 1 free throw hes “not clutch”. Double standard or what…

    • Belgian Fan says:

      So true…I’m glad someone else notices that. If the tables were turned and that was LBJ, man this whole blog would’ve been about LBJ, his 4 shot attempts and how he’s this and that..bla bla bla. Freakin LBJ haters! MVP Allstar Kevin Durant shot the ball 4 times in the last quater, comment on that !

  16. Amitpal says:

    I thought this was a coach victory. Brooks made a few mistakes while Pop put his team in the right position. One thing to notice. Harden was trying to do to much last night. He saw Manu do good so he started forcing things to try to match Manu individually. I remember during the game Manu made a three so harden came back and shot a contested three in Manu face to get even. Well he missed. Harden needs to not worry about Manu and play his game. Harden is normally very good at not forcing things so he needs to get back to that. If thunder want to win harden has to bring his A game. For the most part Durant and russel are going to get there points. It’s harden whos going to have to play goods

  17. Lakers fan but not blind says:

    I’ve said it since the first round, the Spurs are the team to beat. They make the game so easy and they have soooooo many weapons. OKC cannot match up and historically a jump shooting team can’t win it all. I new even more after watching the Lakers vs OKC series that San Antonio would be the team to beat. If the Lakers hadn’t had those last second meltdowns they probably win that series and San Antonio will not make those mistakes. They execute far too well. Neitehr Boston nor Miami can beat the Spurs if they continue to play so well. Of course with LBJ and D Wayde you’ll always be in the game, but it a 7 game series I just can’t see them winning 2 on 10. As much as I used to hate the Spurs, I can’t help but appreciate what they do on the hardwood.

  18. Cedric says:

    Big Spurs Fan. OKC Fans yall forgot something the Spurs did not play well at all and they still won. When some of the Spurs were not hitting there shots they brought in other players that could.They are to deep.They will not win unless OKC bench steps up NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Spurs in 6

    • ANN says:

      It’s funny some people kept saying that SA did not play well and still win the game. Instead of giving the credit to OKC defense they said the opposite. Most people expect that SA will blow out OKC but heading to the 4th quarter oKc was still leading! Westbrook and Harden didn’t even perfom well yesterday and OKC only lose by 3 points. If you think SA can dominate OKC like Utah and Clipper you should wake up. Anyway when the game get intense WB lost his control again and we see the same pattern as last year against Dallas. Ginobili out perform Harden, Parker out perform WB and Scott Brook was out perform(4th quater)by the coach of the year. Game 2 is all about adjustment

    • Amitpal says:

      The spurs didn’t have have a good game cuz thunder played outstanding defense the first three quarter. That defense disappeared in the fourth and that’s when the spurs picked. If the thunder r able to play that defense for four quarters they will win.

      • sbfern805 says:

        Why didnt you think that last series??? Lakers are a much better defensive team than OKC…IF the Lakers had played the same defense in game two and four the WHOLE game instead of 3 1/2 quarters….series would have been 3-1 Lakers. So its a great Job when thunder come back and win the game but when they lose the lead,their defense was the problem and not that the Spurs were better? Yeah dont give the Spurs any credit….Thats how they already won 4 Championships and OKC has yet to win 1… And stop living the IFs cuz they dont exist…i gave you an example about the Lakers, but they didnt play defense all four quarters so they lost. Bottom line…Denver < Lakers < Okc Miami > Boston > who cares!!!

  19. PC says:

    OH my goodness, the game last night was beyond spectacular..!! Everyone minute of it was great basketball play.

    Yeah okay to the topic. SA Spurs did a phenomenal job in the fourth quarter and for 80% of the first quarter. In between that, if you may have noticed, it was OKC Thunder’s basketball game. OKC controlled the game’s tempo from late first quarter to end of 3rd quarter. OKC had a 9-point lead going in the the final period, but the young boys lost composure. Basically, the Spurs’ defense exploited the Thunder’s strength and weakness. OKC is great and nearly unstoppable in their isolation one-on-one game play of Durant-Westbrook-Harden. Spurs came up a defensive scheme in game time quickly to stop the isolation plays and boy did it work. OKC’s big three shot 22-57; as dismal 39% in Field Goal Percentage. Wheres SAS’s big three went 21-44 and 48%. Spurs is a team that can kick if off anytime. I’d say Thunder is lucky to have lost only by 3 if it not been for Daniel Green’s horrendous scoring at zero points. Green had open looks but just couldn’t knock down his trey shot attempts. I don’t seen anything wrong with the Spurs game in game 1, but a bunch for the Thunder. NO more sticking to the 4 guards-1 center offensive game plan. Defense wins games and Serge Ibaka must be there to defend the rim, Kendrick Perkins can’t hold the middle alone. Serge Ibaka is I-block-a; hint why OKC failed to get a single block in the final period. The small lineup worked against Mavs and Lakers but Spurs is a better defensive rotating team. Scott Brooks better play big in the final minutes. However, the small lineup works if they can just hit their shots. My guess to win Game 2 for OKC is to finish with their starting lineup but with Harden. Harden can play D if he just tells himself to.

  20. jazzylg21 says:

    When Neal and Duncan took that charge from Westbrook, he got up, never went to the locker room and was just fine. I think he stayed on the ground to pout, because he was frustrated. Just my opinion. Spurs in 6

  21. Jernej says:

    It was simply great basketball and beautiful sportsmanship all around. Proof that you can put your balls on the line without cheap shots (bynum, odom, kobe, anyone?). Credit to OKC too, they all put an amazing show.

  22. starkpwnsyou says:

    Reggie Miller(on Manu Ginobili): “You have my trophy. I’M the best lefty sixth man in the game.”

  23. starkpwnsyou says:

    GINOBILI! I’ve been waiting for this. Reggie Miller couldn’t have said it better: “You have my trophy.”
    The best sixth man in recent history finally showed up, and with a bang. Seriously, the Spurs look scary, looking at how deep they are:
    Guards: Parker, Manu, Neal, Mills, Joseph
    Wingmen: Leonard, Jackson, Green, Anderson, Byars
    Big Men: Duncan, Blair, Diaw, Splitter, Bonner

    That’s at least 12 guys who can contribute on a nightly basis, and they don’t need to rely on their stars too much, thus making everyone fresh for stretches where their skills would be needed.
    And with a coaching staff of Popovich, Budenholzer, Newman, Brown, Engelland, Forcier and former Spur Jacque Vaughn, you oughta know their skills will be utilized.

    I expect this series to last only a maximum of six games with the Spurs winning it, unless Oklahoma City impresses me and wins Game 2.

  24. heh says:

    I highly doubt the Spurs will take this series in 5 games like most of you are saying, I expect this to be at least a 6 game series though I do see the Spurs winning in the end.

  25. DANITo says:

    ok mr coach lost this one for us. spurs gona win it in 5. and parker outplayed westbrook yesterday. parker was getting inside wat ever time he wants. westbrook was just shooting from outside. he was very week he had no influence on the game watsoever. parker is the best piont guard this year and everyone agreeing with that.durant , harden, westbrook. all they do just shoot jump shots. they got lucky they made them with the lakers, it not gona happen again

    • Jules says:

      True, and the Thunder are a truely remarkable jump shooting team. Durant is very hard to defend when he’s shooting. They spent 3 quarters shutting down Parker, but the Spurs have too many weapons. OKC will continue to be stifled in the paint so expect even more jump shooting. Spurs in 5.

      • SPURS!!!1 says:

        Jackson did a great job defending kevin last night

      • OKCKD35 says:

        when are they going to call Jackson for mugging Durant, he was getting shoved in the back and held all night. that jump ball in the 4th quarter was ridiculous, Duncan jumped in the lane and Ginobli stepped into to the contact and there is not call? just saying if they are allowed to mug durant every night there is no series. Didnt like how the whistle led the comeback either, but hey it was in SA

  26. spurs5th says:

    Coach Pop is the best coach in the nba, he simply outcoached Brooks. Pop had his team better prepared with a game plan tha included changes on the fly. The Thunder’s speed and young talent will only take them so far. The Spurs bench completely outperformed the Thunder’s bench. When the bench scores 53 pts on your team, you team doesnt have a chance. Ginobli alone dismantled the Thunders defense, which brooks had no adjustments to prevent from happening. If the thunder go small, they get outrebounded like they did last night. If the Thunder go big, the spurs guards shred through to the hole like Ginobli did last night using pick and roll. Plus if the game slows down, The spurs have the big fundamental readily to produce in the low post. Spurs have too many weapons, what ever adjustments Brooks makes for the next game, coach Pop has already forseen and has answers and options to counter attack. The only thing that can derail the Spurs from getting their 5th championship this year would be an injury to one of their big 3. Like the great Chick Hearn used to say, the Thunder have 2 chances, slim and none, Spurs in 5. Go Spurs Go.

    • SPURS!!!1 says:

      GO SPURS GO sorry OKC fans but you guys are just another team standing in our way ,I wont lie though once were out of the picture (next 2-3 years) you guys will have yalls chance, not this year though the spurs are to hot and to smart for you kids to begin to understand

    • sbfern805 says:

      All you Thunder fans disappeared!!! lol werent you guys all loud and in front of Lakers fans? San Antonio didnt even play a perfect game and still got the W. game two San Antonio is going to trash the Thunders. Spurs5th i agree with you!! Pop IS the best coach in the NBA and is completely different than Phil Jackson…you can say he got lucky because he coached the BEST player in history followed by a top 5 player in history as well, but Phil knew how to handle Superstars… Duncan on the other side is a great leader and showed the rest of his teammates that he does not have to act like a superstar and still win championships… Parker and Ginobili followed that and this is why they are one of the two great teams this decade…another Chick Hearn’s famopus quotes….”This game’s in the refrigerator! The door’s closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard, and the Jell-O is jiggling….” Btw just like Miami, the Thunder wont have a ring anytime soon!!!

  27. Arek says:

    It’s interesting how most comments so far emphasize the bad things OKC did that caused them to lose, rather than all the right things that the Spurs did against OKC to win.
    Ginobili had a great game, while Harden basically got shut down. As Krespino said above, yeah, Manu probably can’t be expected to do it every game, but to say he “can not”, as if he’s been on some crazy streak recently is silly. If anything, he’s overdue to have a few games like that, considering how quiet he’s been for most of the 2 previous series. Or how about Jackson clamping down on Durant on defense in the 4th?
    It’s also worth mentioning all the bad things that the Spurs did themselves that could have easily cost them the game – missing 8 free throws, and turning the ball over what – 13 or 14 times in the 1st half?? I wouldn’t count on that (TOs) to happen again.
    Yeah, OKC probably took a few lessons out of this game, but so did the Spurs. I wouldn’t call it a greatt game for the Spurs by any stretch (save for the 4th qtr). They should be able to put together a better 48 minutes. With fewer turnovers and better shooting from Duncan and Parker (both shot well below their Playoffs average), Spurs should be fine.
    I call Spurs in 6.

    Canadian Spurs fan since ’91

  28. ChocolateThunder says:

    Mike you took the words right out of my mouth… It is absolutely inexplicable for Durant to get 2 shots in the 4th quarter… That man needs to be more vocal… Not saying Westbrook or Harden need to shoot less, only that Durant needs to get more shots… Thunder still can get this done in spite of public opinion…

  29. Coach lost this one for us says:

    Not playing Serge in the 4th was a HUGE mistake. Manu would have got his stuff thrown into the stands. Scott Brooks was spurs 2nd best player last night. Nothing from Manu though, he was awesome. This should be a great series……Spurs are an awesome team with a really awesome coach! I’m a huge thunder fan so I know I’m biased when I say the thunder are a better team and really should when this one but I’m not sure we will because of our coach. He’s just not aggresive and hungry enough. Either way I’ll be rooting the thunder on every step of the way win or loose I love this team. GO THUNDER! PS. TONY PARKER IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO GAURD WESTBROOK! As we all saw lastnight he blew by him at will as he does to any player who attempts to gaurd him.

    • SPURS!!!1 says:

      okc fans are not use to seeing there stars come up short. A spurs win is gunna be the outcome every night you guys play one on one basketball. There is no team that can beat the spurs admit it or not durant got shut down harden and westbrook were obvisly tired mentaly and physicaly.Last night manu steped up for us game two will be worse for OKC you guys better hope danny green and lenord do not get fired up we only had one weapon out of the 10 we have so pick your poison OKC fans your in for another heart break GO SPURS GO
      P.S whoever wins this series wins the championship


      ibaka should be there to defend the paint in the last minutes.. this is the big mistake of OKC coaching staff.. manu and the spurs cant shoot that ball inside the paint so easily if he was present..

      • TRU*NBAFAN says:

        They have perimeter and 3pt weapons too. Spurs are NOT “only in the paint” kinda team. It is going to take more than that strategy to beat the Spurs.

    • TRU*NBAFAN says:

      Did you also see Old man Tim Duncan spin move around Serge and into the hole?

      • ONE TIME! says:

        Timmy managed to get his slow aging boring to watch body around Serge once for a weak lay up. What about the other 20 times he got shut down? Manu won this game for the spurs and our coach scott brooks helped him by not playing serge in the 4th when manu was scoring at will because Perk was in foul trouble.

    • Dalwin says:

      As you know Basketball is game of match ups .If they put Ibaka in the game ,Spurs will respond with Bonner in the game ( one of the best 3 shooter in nba ).So Ibaka will have to come out to guard 3 point line if not Bonner will kill you. If you do , open up for Duncan at post/rim . Point is Spurs have very deep bench and very productive bench .Who you guard first. Do you guard pick and roll ,do you guard post or do you guard perimeter shooting.

      Spurs are team that have all of above ( Parker & Ginobili penetration / pick and roll Duncan -Splitter if you close on them they kick out for three or feed Duncan/Splitter at rim . Atack is coming from every direction and it is very hard to read and stop .
      Spurs are not by acident 9-0 in playoffs so far and 19-0 win in row. they are just awesome .And very very hard to beat .

      On the other side Spurs have also very solid defence and make you work for every point ,People that will stood up & take charge ( neil ,Ginobili ,Jackson , Lenard ).So OKC agresive move to the rim is iffy. When you add that experiance that only Champions have what else to say .

  30. Only solution for James Harden is to cut his hideous beard. Lol

  31. Jay says:

    I’m surprised that he came up so small. Not surprised that he got outplayed by a 3x champion.

  32. Krespino says:

    The coming games would be different. Ginobili can not repeat the same high performance every game and Harden would not perform that weak, Harden must have learned from this game. Ibaka and Perkins can play better.

    • Nope says:

      Dereck Fisher cannot perform the way he played last night in game 2 and Harden, he’ll be controlled yet again. He may do a bit better, but it won’t matter. San Antonio is just way too deep for OKC. Green didn’t play well for San Antonio and I would expect him to shoot better, not to mention San Antonio won’t turn the ball over nearly as much. Fear the beard? Not Manu and company lol.

    • Jules says:

      Perkins can’t defend Tim Duncan, so Ibaka or someone else would have to leave their man, and you can’t leave a Spur open on the perimeter. Harden will have to keep taking contested jumpers from outside because his inside game relied too much on pushing through defenders who wouldn’t take a charge. The Surs served notice that they will take charges and trap you inside, so I expect there to be a lot more jump shooting from OKC next game. Stephen Jackson’s coverage of Durant will have a huge effect on the Thunder’s scoring ability.

      • Nicepherus says:

        I just dont see either of these teams effectively matching up against the Celtics or Heat. Parker historically has been dominated by D-Wade or Rajon Rondo. Westbrook might fare better. Niether team has an answer for KG. (Duncan? LMAO!!!, yeah right), Durrant and Pierce would be interesting to watch head to head. LBJ is a big problem for both the Spurs and Thunder. Even if Bosh was healthy, I would say is a non-factor. Ginobli has never played well against the Celtic defense. Perkins and Harden could be an issue for Boston, but Miami’s tempo would wear them down.
        Lets see. Anyway, for anyone who loves baskettball, this Spurs, Thunder series will be fun. But the REAL NBA Finals are the Eastern Conference Finals. The rest is just for fun. Enjoy!

      • DUD says:


        You have been on the East Coast too long. Don’t believe all the hype coming out of Boston and Heat. ESPN has been feeding you the wrong picture since their coverage of the West is so weak. Whether it is the SPURS or THUNDERS, both have the talent and record to back up in order to take and destroy anything the EAST can produce for the Finals. KG???? Didn’t do well on Game 1 last night did he. Duncan…..been dominating all year plus the playoffs.

      • el stone says:


        If you think the Eastern Conference Finals contains the 2 superior teams, you obviously haven’t been paying attention to the NBA experts’ opinions, or really, much of anything this year.

        But hey, paint the Spurs as the underdog. They thrive in that role. But they’d be the first underdog ever with an 18 game win streak.

        Get your head out of your crack Nicepherus.

  33. Mike says:

    Harden and Westbrook are not alway consistent. Durant is the most consistent guy on that team . It’s ridiculous he only take two shots in 4th quater. Superstar have to show up and take charge. No way they are going to win if he takes less than 20 shot a game.

  34. Hg says:

    I am all for the SAS to win the WCF and the championship, but I don’t think the spurs has really won anything yet, HOME COURT ADVANTAGE and game 1, but if the pace keeps going like it did last night the bench for SAS has got to keep producing, of course they have done that all year; what happened last night is history, the next game is the only thing that counts.
    The Spurs did great against OKC’s big three, but as the series wears on can they keep it up? This is the best matchup series that I have seen in a long time.