Okay, "wow" isn't really all I can say. If there was such a thing as basketball prison, and players were sentenced to it for crimes against the sport, I would want Harden serving a life sentence with no chance for parole.
It wasn't just the flop, mind you, it was the "OH MY GOD NOT MY FACE!" reaction that went along with it. There's selling a flop, there's overselling a flop, and there's pretending someone shot you in the head. Too much, James. Too much.
The worst part was that Tyson Chandler received a technical foul for arguing the call. The league actually showed some wisdom by rescinding the tech. But damn, people. It never should have come to that. And Harden's flop-a-rooni started an 8-0 run that pulled the Thunder to within 65-52, which was the closest they'd been since the end of the first quarter.
Which brings me to...
The Oklahoma City Thunder: Playing at home with a chance to take complete control of the series, the Thunder forced Dirk Nowitzki (7-for-21) and Jason Terry (3-for-12) into bad shooting games. Ditto for Jason Kidd (4-for-10) and Peja Stojakovic (3-for-7). In all, the Mavs shot 43.9 percent and went only 7-for-21 from downtown. They also lost the rebounding battle 45-37 and had a 36-18 disadvantage in free throw attempts.
Dallas also led by as many as 23 points and held on down the stretch for a 93-87 win. Thanks to a team-wide offensive pants-wetting by Oklahoma City.
The Thunder shot 36.5 percent as a team and went 1-for-17 on threes. That is not a misprint. According to ESPN Stats and Information, OKC tied for the second-worst three-point percentage in a playoff game in the last 20 years (5.9 percent), trailing only the 2005 Mavericks, who shot 5.6 percent (1-for-18) in a 119-102 loss to the Phoenix Suns. You know, back when the Suns were relevant and Steve Nash was the MVP.
Anyway, Kevin Durant bricked his way to a 7-for-22 night and Russell Westbrook went 8-for-20 and committed 7 turnovers. And you know what? Westbrook has me totally confused. I can't tell if he's Oklahoma City's best player or their worst nightmare. Is he keeping them in games or shooting the Thunder out of them? I have no idea at this point.
Maybe it's a little of Column A, a little of Column C.
On the subject, courtesy of AnacondaHL, a "flawed yet interesting take on why Eric Maynor should be point over Westbrook."
So now let's backtrack to that "since the end of the first quarter" reference I made in the entry for Harden's flop. Oklahoma City got outscored 27-12 in the first 12 minutes, and that pretty much defined the game. According to ESPN Stats and Information, "they turned the ball over 7 times and made just 4-17 from the field. The Mavericks meanwhile assisted on 8 of their 12 made FG."
Bad D. Bad O. Bad everything.
Said Durant: "Frustrating. It's tough to start a game, not make shots and you give teams easy baskets. That's like a backbreaker."
Added Thunder coach Scott Brooks: "There's no question they started the game really hitting us and knocking us out of our offense. And we missed a lot of 3s. Those 3s weren't all contested."
Sometimes you’re hitting. Sometimes your not. On Saturday, the Thunder were not. It wasn't just three-pointers, either. According to Hoopdata, OKC went 4-for-9 from 3-9 feet, 3-for-10 from 10-15 feet and 3-for-9 from 16-23 feet. And they missed 13 of their 29 attempts at the rim.
Bonus video: More adventures in officiating courtesy of Refcalls:
The Chicago Bulls: I didn't think it would be Chris Bosh.
He was the Ringo of these "Heetles," right? The oft-criticized, occasionally forgotten third wheel. The butt of all the "Two and a Half Men" jokes that swirled around Miami this season. The Boshtrich. The guy who went 1-for-18 against the Bulls during what's turning out to be an utterly meaningless regular season game.
I didn't think it would be Chris Bosh.
I just didn't think he would be the Heat player beating the Bulls.
Bosh scored 34 points on 18 field goal attempts.
According to Hoopdata, e went 5-for-6 at the rim, 2-for-2 from 3-9 feet, 1-for-1 from 10-15 feet and 5-for-9 from 16-23 feet.
He hit open shots.
He hit contested shots.
After starting the game 0-for-3, he went 13-for-15.
Bosh also earned more foul shots (10) than LeBron James (9), Dwyane Wade (6) or Derrick Rose (3).
And he knocked down eight of them.
Chicago's defense was designed to slow down the scoring exploits of LeBron (6-for-13) and D-Wade (6-for-17). That mission was accomplished. But Bosh's frightening accuracy from everywhere on the floor stretched that D to its breaking point. It allowed James to drive, draw the double team, and kick the ball out. Six of LeBron's game-high 10 assists were dished to Bosh and Wade...four of them to Bosh.
That's the value of Miami's three-star system.
How can you possibly guard all three of them on every possession? The answer, it's turning out, is that you can't. Bosh now has two 30-point outbursts in three playoff games against the Bulls. And in the one game he didn't go for 30, James and Wade had big scoring games.
It's hard not to compare LeBron's floor game and assist totals to that of Derrick Rose. Of course, when Rose tried to run the pick and roll with Joakim Noah, the Heat defense stuck to Rose like it was made of Velcro. That's because Noah is no threat to score. Last night, Jo finished with a single point on 0-for-4 shooting.
Speaking of which...
Joakim Noah: Let's put it this way: Noah finished the game with more alleged gay slurs than field goals.
Back to the game, Noah has never been a primary or even secondary scoring threat. The Bulls count on him to rip down rebounds and make an impact on defense. Only he didn't do either last night. Not even close. Jo totaled a mere 5 rebounds, only one of which came on the offensive end, when he missed a tip shot.
And he was the unfortunate victim of several Bosh jumpers.
Noah finished with five fouls. He committed three of them trying -- and failing -- to stop Bosh. He couldn't even slow Bosh down. That wasn't just a hiccup in the game plan. It blew the game plan to hell.
Said Noah: "We didn't finish well at the rim. I feel like I could definitely do a better job on the boards, and I need to finish better. I'm really disappointed in myself with the way I played tonight."
You can tell Noah is frustrated. You can also tell he's lost all faith in that little 15-footer he had developed before his thumb surgery. Now, when left unguarded with the ball on the outside, Noah looks like he's holding the world's hottest potato. He can't get rid of that thing fast enough.
Juxtapose Noah's fear of getting the rock outside the paint with Udonis Haslem's confidence. Haslem went 4-for-5 from the field in the second half, which included jumpers from 15, 16 and 18 feet. Haslem's ability to hit those shots opened up the floor for James to drive and kick, drive and kick, drive and score.
Back to the Bulls... The Bulls aren't opening similar lanes for Rose. Carlos Boozer finally made a jail break -- 26 points, 10-for-12 at the line, 17 rebounds -- but Deng went 2-for-7 when he wasn't shooting from point blank range. Keith Bogans hit one and missed two. Ronnie Brewer was 2-for-6 and hasn't earned any respect for his jump shot. Kyle Korver attempted only two field goals in 11 minutes. Omer Asik -- who's less of a threat to score than anyone else on this team -- went 0-for-3 before leaving with a leg injury.
In short, the Bulls couldn't stop Miami's Big Three -- who scored 73 of the Heat's 96 points -- and couldn't get anything consistent out of their offense outside of Boozer. Haslem, Mike Bibby (2-for-4 on threes) and Mario Chalmers (2-for-3) spaced the floor just enough for their superstar teammates to go where they wanted to go.
Chicago won the rebounding battle (41-32) and outscored Miami in the paint (36-31), but the Heat nearly 51 percent from the field and went an outrageous 10-for-19 from 16-23 feet (52.7 percent). That can't happen.
Said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: "They're making shots. We have to get up and challenge their shots better. We have to finish our defense. The rebounding was good. Challenging their shots wasn't."
I guess. Although there were a couple times Noah's hand was so far up in Bosh's face he could have wiped Bosh's nose, but Miami's big man knocked the shots down anyway. What more can Noah do to challenge? Hit Bosh with a brick?
Shouldn't be a problem. The Bulls have plenty of bricks to go around.
Kyle Korver: This was just...embarrassing. All I can say.
Chris' Weekend Playoff Lacktion Ledger:
Mavs-Thunder: Eric Maynor bricked once and lost the rock once as well for a +2 in 5:54, while Daequan Cook baked two bricks from...uh...Bricktown and fouled thricely for a +5 in 14:03.
Bulls-Heat: Gee, Mr. Joakim Noah, the fact you are in the lacktion report probably means you didn't help the moo machine beat out South Beach.
In 29:04 as starting big man, five boards and six assists were negated by four bricks, two turnovers, and five fouls for a 7:6 Voskuhl. yikes.
Omer Asik also represented the windy city well with two fouls countering a board in 15:21 for a 2:1 Voskuhl.
Meanwhile, Miami's Mike Miller fouled and bricked twice each (once from...uh...Brickell) and lost the rock once in 12:54 for a celebratory +5 suck differential.