By James Blackburn
Second Round of Western Conference NBA Playoffs- Game 7
Thunder win 105-90
James Harden (31 min, 6-10 FG, 4-8 3pt, 4 reb, 3 assist, 4 steals, 17 TP)
Strengths – Smart player who makes good decisions. Solid all-around type player who is versatile and can do many things well; reminds me of Josh Howard. He plays a similar role to the one that Howard played in Dallas. Spaces the floor with his outside shooting. Has the ability to shoot with feet set off the catch, and can also create his own offense where he can shoot off the dribble and attack the basket because of athleticism. Poised and calm throughout game. Good rebounder and passer. Moves well without the ball and floats to the right area of the floor where guard can see him off of penetration. Plays the passing lines well and is a solid defender in general.
Weaknesses – One of the things that makes Harden so good is that he does a great job of maximizing his skills and strengths, and minimizing his weaknesses. With that said, Harden needs to continue to improve his dribbling. Sometimes when he attacks the basket, his handle is a little shaky and he losses control. He was ineffective from the line today (1-4) but has been a 80% FT shooter for his career.
Overview – The more and more I get to watch Harden the more I like his game and the way he plays. He is not flashy and is humble in how he plays. He is such an all-around talent and contributes in so many ways to help his team win. Harden is probably one of the reasons the Thunder were willing to part ways with Jeff Green (among others, like needing another big). The trade has allowed Harden to play more minutes and to become the third option behind Durant and Westbrook. He is stepped into this new role and has flourished. Harden continues to improve every year and his contributions will continue to go mostly unnoticed because of Durant and Westbrook playing on the same team. Has the potential to be an All Star with in a couple of years.
Zach Randolph (38 minutes, 6-15 FG, 5-6 FT, 10 reb, 1 blk, 1 st, 17 TP)
Strengths – Great midrange shooter. Can hit the 15-18 foot jump shot with consistency from any angle, but he prefers the baseline. Good pick-and-pop player because of shooting ability. Does a good job of drawing contact. Does a good job of shielding more athletic and taller defenders with body and creating space with his strength and width. Patient in the post. Does a nice job of catching, turning, and facing the basket, where he displays solid footwork and patience and takes what the defense gives him – very much like Tim Duncan in that regard. Lefty. Never gives up on the play – scrappy and physical, not the prettiest game. Unconventional style.
Weaknesses – Does a decent job of getting up and down the floor for size, but needs to continue working on getting back on D quicker. Poor P/R defense. Not athletic or long, but uses size well like Charles Barkley used to. Good rebounder in general, but missed more than a couple of box out assignments from the weak side today where his man got the offensive rebound and scored. Forced some shots early in the game against great post defense, but in the second half did a better job of passing out of the double team. He only had 1 assist, but this can not be blamed solely on Randolph. The Grizzlies team struggled today from the field hitting only 39% for the game.
Overview – One of Randolph’s best seasons since being in the NBA. Rewarded by being named to the All-NBA 3rd team. Not the best performance by the big man today, but give OKC players credit. They did a great job defending him and threw some double teams on him in the second half. The Grizzlies ran the offense through him practically the entire second him, but Randolph had difficulty scoring over Ibaka and Collison today.
Shane Battier (27 min, 2-6 FG, 4 reb, 1 st, 4 TP)
Strengths – Good set shooter from 3. Talks on defense and does a good job of playing help defense and being in good defensive position. Gets hand up on shooters.
Weaknesses – Good defender in general, but is slow moving laterally. Can not create his own offense. On a 2 on 1 break, he floated to the corner for the 3, when he could have had a wide open lay up.
Overview – Battier was a great pick up for Memphis and was one of the most underrated and overlooked mid-season pickups in the NBA this year. Battier’s grit, toughness, and smarts were one of the big reasons Memphis had made it this far. He has taken a lot of the principals that were taught to him at Duke and carried them to the NBA. Great role player.
Marc Gasol (37 min, 4-10 FG, 4-4 FT, 7 reb, 2 blk, 12 TP)
Strengths – Strong rebounder. Good passer; throws good outlet passes to guards leaking out. Sets wide screens. Great post defender, plays big and tough, makes himself tall and wide. Likes turn around jumper from over his right shoulder.
Weaknesses – Must continue to work on midrange/FT area jumper. Kendrick Perkins would give him a lot of space and dare him to shoot that shot today. Complained to the officials several times about a no call, while other team went down court and scored.
Overview – Gasol is a great complementary piece next to Randolph. He does all the dirty work, defends, and sets screens. Any scoring he does is an added bonus. His offensive game has improved immensely since coming into the league. Settled for the easy play today at times offensively instead of attacking, evidence by his 4-10 shooting. Gasol and Randolph should serve as one of the league’s most feared front courts for years to come.