While the Most Valuable Player Award is given to the player that is most outstanding and crucial to his team’s success during the regular season, and has already occurred, you can still witness the top two candidates try to best each other in their playoff series. James Harden and the Houston Rockets took game one against Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night, and both players certainly tried to lead their teams. Harden, although still forcing some things, had the better night of the two as Westbrook tried to shoot his way out of a clear slump.
In a game that saw Houston enter the half with a five point lead, the Rockets came out with a 31-point win, and even though the final score was quite lop-sided, you’ve got to think this will still be one of the better series in the first round of the playoffs. The Thunder struggled in plenty of ways in the second half, but don’t expect them to shoot as poorly throughout the series, and don’t expect Westbrook to turn the ball over nine times again.
Despite the Thunder not being quite the team they were with Durant, it’s always fun to watch a game between the leading MVP candidates. Voting for the award is now over, but don’t expect that to mean that these two players won’t be going at each other. Westbrook has the edge as far as stats go, but he obviously wants to move on to the next round to prove to his critics that he is great on more than just the stat sheet. That criticism is common among those voting for Harden because they believe that Westbrook pads his stats while Harden is more effective and better at playing within his team. Adding to the drama of this round is the history between Patrick Beverley and Westbrook, which seemed to add just a little extra heat to the game, but that’s expected in the playoffs anyway. Regardless, don’t let the blowout in the first game fool you into thinking that it is indicative of a future sweep.