Even Rockets' Mike D'Antoni compelled by Harden-Westbrook matchup

Paola Ditto
Aprile 21, 2017

There have been fleeting signs of that dominant big man through the 2016-17 regular season where his offence has improved greatly.

FAMILIAR FOES: San Antonio and Memphis will meet for an NBA-high fourth time since 2011, when the Grizzlies upset the top-seeded Spurs. His numbers were better than everyone else's at the center position. Thunder forward Andre Roberson largely stymied Harden, limiting him to 20.5 points (with a 48.3 true shooting percentage), 7.3 rebounds and 12.3 assists per game.

While both teams live or die by the success of their superstars, they are very different in how they operate on a game-to-game basis.

The former will finish the season with an impressive average around 16 points and 4.3 rebounds, however, Sabonis has fallen out of coach Donovan's starting five since February.

Olajuwon finished with one first place vote to Robinson's 73. His MVP case has been further strengthened by the fact that his team is winning.

The workload for Harden changed this season, unlike in previous years.

Here's how, when and where you can catch the series opener on Sunday.

The Warriors' conference-leading 67 wins match their 2014-15 championship season.

The reality shows it was closer than maybe we remember. If Harden gets a three-shot foul I'll be stunned. The MVP was decided that day.

The key difference is that Harden has a much more capable supporting cast ready on the perimeter awaiting the multiple open looks he's inevitably going to serve up.

With two contrasting styles, it will be interesting to see which team is able to operate in its comfort zone more often, and which team will abandon its ways in order to matchup better with its opponent.

There are a lot of scenarios at play here and the best one for Oklahoma City is this: Matchup Westbrook against Harden on the defensive end. Why?

While Mike D'Antonio has put forth some of the best offenses in National Basketball Association history, his regular season success hasn't translated to the playoffs.

The MVP existed deeper than just that, but the narrative of it all boils down to those elements.

The Rockets scored 111.8 points per 100 possessions during the regular season, third-most in the National Basketball Association, with a record number of three-point shots attempted (3,306) and made (1,181).

It's the reason that the Spurs lost their first two games against Memphis this season, needed to play nearly flawless basketball to beat them the first time, and then finally won a good game against them in overtime in their final matchup.

Some think that it's going to come down to Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Maybe it will be more if the series goes long.

"I think if we were better overall record-wise as a team, there is no doubt he'd be in the conversation", Gentry said.

Though many factors are considered by MVP voters, Harden recently stated that wins should be the deciding factor. The idea is to break your will and the defensive principles.

OKC have also struggled away from home this season too. They were teammates in Oklahoma City from 2009 to 2012. This math problem existed a year ago against the Warriors. "Obviously, they're a great offensive team". But the Spurs, as a team, average more assists than the Thunder, because the entire point of the Spurs offense isn't to constantly run the offense through one ball-dominant guard. And he must punish the Rockets on the boards with that indefatigable energy with which he has made his name.

The Thunder also allow the sixth lowest rate of three-pointers attempted. Yes, more than a Chris Paul, a John Wall, a Russell Westbrook. Harden goes out there playing chess with D'Antoni's guidance.

Beverley went to the bench soon after that to a huge ovation and a high five from Houston Texans star J.J. Watt, who watched the game from a courtside seat.

Which player deserves to be called the most valuable of the past year? Westbrook will need someone to step up from game to game. Get back in transition obviously for Westbrook. A history of technical fouls, injuries, and irritation cast a shadow on the return of this match-up that Westbrook won't care about until he has no choice but to address any confrontation.

"We don't get fooled into thinking that it's something that it's not". It's common sense to say that the Cavaliers wouldn't be the #2 seed (should be the #1 seed but that's none of my business) in the Eastern Conference without the 13-time All-Star. Situational spots and switches will give us the blood thirst we desire. Or at least it has this season. "Get them in the halfcourt where they're not quite as good as in full court". Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, and Taj Gibson can all turn the game just on their offensive rebounding ability.

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