Miami Heat Playoffs: James Harden’s Worst Nightmares Soon Come

James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts during the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
James Harden #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts during the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
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Miami Heat
Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat shoots against Bruce Brown #1 of the Brooklyn Nets and James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

Miami Heat Playoffs: James Harden Will Have To Guard In This Series Too

Now slated to stand toe-to-toe with Jimmy Butler, who went on a complete two-way barrage against Atlanta by taking advantage of weaker defenders in isolation, you could expect Harden to be another likely target.

  • While Harden holds a winning record (10-6) and a higher scoring average, Butler has outpaced Harden in Field-Goal Percentage, Steals and fewer Turnovers in their 16 career head-to-head games.

As this, once again, goes back to Butler, who came away with several punctual steals in the first round, another key area where Miami will be able to focus on Harden is in the passing lanes. As Harden’s turnovers and usage have declined in recent years, Philadelphia will need to rely on him to direct traffic.

To have Butler, an off-ball threat who can negate passes and create transition opportunities, makes life for a dominant ball-handler, a la Harden, worse by a substantial amount.

For Harden to channel his inner superstar who was once able to relentlessly attack defenses from any angle just seems unachievable. There’s just an overwhelming amount of defenders on Miami’s roster and this goes without mentioning the resurgence of Victor Oladipo.

The Sixers will attempt to withstand a Heat team that appears to be more connected than they’ve ever been all year. They should, not only, be able to frustrate Harden offensively but they’re even built to schematically deter him from what he does best—getting to the free-throw line.

With the exception of Harden (and Embiid), the Sixers had just two other players average double-figures in the first round. While Tyrese Maxey did have a 28-point explosion against Miami back in late March, neither he nor Tobias Harris have proven themselves capable of consistently scoring at the highest level, including the postseason.

In any playoff series, there will always be further adjustments to make. It’s not quite often for a team to completely dismantle their opponent for four consecutive games.

But if they can diminish Harden’s play, Miami could very well be headed in that direction. As proven against Atlanta, they’re nothing short of a gaudy defensive team and it’s been demonstrated for several months.

Next. Must Capitalize With Joel Embiid Out At Least 2 Games. dark

An absolute penitentiary has been built on Biscayne Boulevard and if the Sixers have any desire to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, they’ll need Harden to find ways to become a version of him that appears long gone. The Heat will be in full anticipation of it though, either way.