If you watched the ending of Game 4, you saw it. No, not Russell Westbrook's costly foul, but James Harden looking like a James Harden impostor. At the 2 minute mark, coming out of a timeout the Thunder ran a beautiful staggered play that allowed Harden to work into the middle of the court. Harden was in perfect position to keep the Thunder within striking range. It is a painful play to watch, because in it Harden fails to do all the things for which Harden has become known.
Grantland's Sebastian Pruiti breaks down the play in total, and when you see his analysis, Harden's hesitation becomes all the more confounding.
Here is the play, but look at Pruiti's post in full to understand how the play was set up.
Not only does Harden have a wide-open jumper at the top of the key, but he also has Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka in a 2 on 1 situation against Shane Battier. Harden could have either looked for the quick jumper, hit Durant on the curl, or even hit Ibaka with an alley-oop. We've seen Harden perform all of these plays with regularity this season. Instead, Harden hesitates, the Heat defense recovers, and OKC comes away with a costly empty possession.
This hesitation is one of the big reasons why Harden has been so ineffective in this series and we're all perplexed as to why exactly it is happening. Harden must trust in and make use of his skillset tonight in full if OKC is going to have any shot at returning home for a Game 6.
To contrast, here is Harden's play in Game 4 of the Dallas series. In it, you can see how different Harden's approach is; there is no hesitation at all.