Thunder's Harden OK with low-scoring finals debut
By JEFF LATZKE
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) There wasn't much to fear about the beard in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
NBA sixth man of the year James Harden scored only five points - 12 1/2 below his playoff average - in his finals debut but was hardly lamenting it Wednesday with his Oklahoma City Thunder up 1-0 in the series against the Miami Heat.
Harden had scored in double digits in all 15 playoff games this season before making it only halfway there to start the finals. He played only 22 minutes, his least of the playoffs, largely because he was pulled after picking up his fourth foul late in the third quarter and did not return. Defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha replaced him and did a good enough job of slowing down LeBron James that he never came out.
"I think I did a pretty good job ... obviously I didn't score the ball well but just defensively and doing other things to help the team win," Harden said Wednesday. "Ws are all that matter now. It's not about individual performances."
Perhaps most notably, Harden didn't attempt a single free throw in Game 1. The left-handed slasher shot the 10th-most foul shots in the league during the regular season and said he wants to get back to attacking the rim in Game 2 on Thursday night.
"Just be more aggressive, watch film, learn what they did on the defensive end and just attack more. Be more aggressive not just for myself, but collapsing the defense in and making plays for my teammates is something that I'm very good at," Harden said.
"I've just got to be aggressive and do whatever it takes and drive the lanes, find my shooters and find by bigs for easy dunks."
HE GOES GLASSES: It's the fashion craze that's all the rage in the NBA playoffs: glasses, sometimes with lenses, sometimes without.
The stars of both the Thunder and the Heat have taken to wearing glasses to their postgame news conferences - even if not all of them need the eyewear.
"Trends, they come and go, and people get on board with them or they don't. With the nerd glasses that comes in the NBA, it's just something fun to do right now," Dwyane Wade said. "I'm sure next season it'll be out the window."
Russell Westbrook's attire has been all over the place during the postseason. His latest outfit was a white shirt with drawings of golfers all over it for after Game 1.
And his glasses frames typically don't have lenses because he doesn't need them. But he said he's got a variety of different colors to choose from.
"I've been wearing glasses since I've been in the league," he tried to claim Wednesday "I think everybody else just started wearing them now."
That's obviously not the case. LeBron James said he thinks he started going with glasses two years ago, but he doesn't know who sparked the craze or when.
"There's no stories behind it. You know, it's a look, it's a fashion thing," James said. "But (Westbrook) absolutely didn't start it."
FACE GUARDING: Miami's Shane Battier was jazzed to find out that three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant admitted being bothered by Battier's method of sticking his hand in a shooter's face to keep him from seeing the rim.
"Yes! Someone finally admitted it," Battier said. "For years, Kobe (Bryant) never admitted it. Yes!"
Battier said he started the hands-to-the-face technique a few years ago after teammates got mad at him when he was testing it out in practice. He says coach Erik Spoelstra isn't all that fond of it but his rationale is that "I can't jump to block shots anymore, so that's my secret weapon."
"Anything to mess with this sort of space right here affects you," Battier said, gesturing with his hands moving around his head.
"People in general don't like being touched in their face, they don't like hands in the face. Shooters don't like being touched on the wrist. They just don't like it. I know I don't like it. So, if I don't like it, I know other guys don't like it, so why don't I do it?"
Durant said Battier is the only defender he remembers trying to block his vision on his release.
"I absolutely hate it," Durant said. "But I've gotten used to it over the years playing Shane. ... You've just got to be disciplined on your shot, and I think shooting so many shots, you know once you kind of let loose, you know where it's going to go."
BOSH ON THE BENCH: The Heat remain noncommittal on whether All-Star forward Chris Bosh will return to the starting lineup.
Spoelstra said it's more important that he be put in positions to be aggressive than whether he's on the court when the game starts. And Bosh is simply amused by all the interest his status is getting.
"I didn't know it was such a big deal, the starting thing. I just thought people were happy to see me out there," Bosh joked.
Bosh had started every game he played in through the regular season and the playoffs until suffering an abdominal injury during the Eastern Conference semifinals. He has come off the bench in his four games since that nine-game absence.
"I'm a glass is half-full kind of guy," Bosh said. "I always look at whatever position I'm, I'm like, `This is the best position to be in right now.' It doesn't matter to me."
RECORD RATINGS: The opener of the series was the most-viewed NBA Finals Game 1 ever on ABC.
The game drew a 9.9 household rating and just under 16.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen. The best previous marks were for the opener of the 2004 finals between Detroit and the Los Angeles Lakers (9.8 rating, 15.35 million viewers).
The ratings were a 10 percent improvement over last year's Game 1 between Miami and Dallas (9.0) and a 7 percent increase in viewers (15.2 million).
The rating is the percentage of all homes with TVs.
TIP-INS: Country singer Sara Evans will perform the national anthem before Game 2. Her songs include "Born to Fly" and "Perfect."... Even NBA stars don't know everything about each other. Wade said he was watching the Spurs on TV and a girl and a boy ran up to Tim Duncan before the game. "I didn't know he had kids. I'm assuming they're his," Wade said. "They kind of look like him." Duncan does indeed have two children, according to San Antonio's media guide. ... Bosh faced questioning after downplaying Oklahoma City's loud crowd following Game 1 but he didn't back away from his assessment. "It is loud," he said. "I guess I made it worse in my head. I guess it was going to be a much tougher environment in my head."
Updated June 13, 2012