The teams don’t share many similarities in their approach, with the Rockets wielding a more balanced attack led by MVP candidate, James Harden.
Westbrook’s triple-double record-setting season is rather jaw-dropping. Harden, who is averaging just over 11 assists per game, has six teammates that average over 10 points per game.
But a black eye for the league this season-and one that will continue to sting if left unattended- has been a rampant spread of resting players, especially in nationally televised games. On Sunday afternoon, Westbrook kept his video-game-esque season going with a heart-stopping performance against the Denver Nuggets on the road.
“I was impressed as I always am with him, but he kept attacking offensively”, Joerger said. “No, I’m focused. I’m locked in on what’s important and the extra-terrestrial stuff doesn’t matter”. It’s evident that Westbrook’s valiant efforts have benefited his team.
Against Sacramento, Harden scored 35 points, added 15 assists and grabbed 11 rebounds as Houston (54-26) completed its first season sweep of the Kings since the 1997-98 season and reached the 54-win plateau for the third time in four seasons. “He’s been unbelievable in the way he’s played, the way he’s led”, Donovan said after the team’s morning shootaround. Gregg Popovich didn’t have to come back for his twenty-first season coaching the Spurs (he could’ve run for president!), but he did, largely because with Leonard, the team would still contend for the National Basketball Association championship. In mid-March, the Washington Post surveyed 106 members of the media who cover the National Basketball Association, and while not all of the respondents have a vote in the MVP race, the results clearly favored Harden.
But those players didn’t create as many points through their assists because far more of Harden’s dimes went for an extra point. He has put up historical numbers across the board while leading OKC to the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
Shannon Sharpe: You take Harden off Houston, what are they?
Here’s how hard it is to win the NBA MVP this season. “They’re playing at a doctoral thesis level and here is a young guy in his first year and you’re trying to spit some words out of what coverage we should be in and it just takes experience”. This is obviously music to the ears of Harden’s fantasy owners as he tries to make his MVP case with 81 games.
What Westbrook did this past season (stat-padding or not) has been awe-inspiring. When they spoke to head coach Lue, he told them the plan was to “hold back” until the post-season. A first-round tango with Harden and the No. 3-seed Rockets begins in Houston this weekend. The “system” has also allowed Westbrook to attempt 420 more shots than Harden has this season.
Andre Roberson can’t make an open jump shot, but he’s one of the league’s best perimeter defenders. The Spurs are 61-18 and in second place in the West. Westbrook has Oladipo, a rising star, and consistent big men in Enes Kanter and Steven Adams. With Tim Duncan retired, Leonard has stepped right into his shoes as San Antonio’s quiet, unassuming leader. So it’s a tribute to Leonard that he has emerged in Pop’s approach despite LaMarcus Aldridge’s presence. As unquestionably-great as James is, he will undoubtedly be penalized by voters for the fact that Cleveland’s defense ranks in the bottom third of the league, and a staggering 28th since the All-Star break. He turns the ball over only three percent on isos. How the Thunder does in the playoffs is beside the point in the MVP race which covers only the regular season. The New Zealand Herald’s Grant Chapman provided some points, citing that Westbrook’s feat, no matter how unbelievable and wonderful, may not be enough for him to win the NBA’s top individual award.