Two MVP Candidates Facing Road Blocks to the Finals

by Josiah Williams
by Josiah Williams

The NBA’s MVP award normally goes to the players who demonstrated that their team wouldn’t be where they are without them. James Harden and LeBron James fit the bill. Both are leaned on heavily to succeed and are facing similar problems in the Conference Finals.

LeBron James accounted for 73% of the offense (69 out of 94 pts) in Game 2 against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. He had 42 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds in a losing effort 107-94. Although the outcome isn’t completely his fault.

Their back court includes JR Smith and George Hill combined a poor shooting night. They went 1 of 11 from the field. Jeff Green, who played the same number of minutes as JR Smith only went 2 of 5 from the field. Nevertheless, the legendary Kobe Bryant broke down film of LeBron and gave some advice.

After getting embarrassed in game 1, the Cleveland Cavaliers came out more aggressive in game 2. King James was the one who came out set the tone on offense. He took 13 shots in the first quarter. That is more than he has ever shot in the first 12 minutes of a game.

In the second half, LeBron went 7 of 14 but the Celtics outscored the Cavs 59-39. Skip Bayless, a sports columnist and television personality responded via Twitter to weigh in on the topic. He drew a parallel between James Harden and LeBron.

James Harden had a similar outcome when he faced the Golden State Warriors in game 1. He is known as one of the game’s best isolation players. Not many players can defend him one on one. Unfortunately, his strength can also be his weakness.

Harden has excellent handles. He also has the tendency to overdribble. In game one, according to Second Spectrum data, Houston dribbled 1,105. Harden was responsible for 550 of those dribbles. Meanwhile, the Warriors had only 812 dribbles.

Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant combined for 549 dribbles. James Harden dribbled more than three of the Warriors’ superstars altogether. If there was a segment called “Doing Too Much,” James Harden needs to host it.

In game 2, Harden didn’t have a stellar game shooting 9 of 24 from the field. However, the keys to the game lie within less dribbling and increased ball movement from the team that led to a 127-105 victory. In game 1, role players such as PJ Tucker, Trevor Ariza combined for 9 points.

They totaled 41 points in the second game. Not to mention Eric Gordon scored 27 points off the bench. A few days ago, he only had 15 points. Clearly, the Rockets took a different approach and played more as a team.

Mike D’Antoni, the Rockets head coach, denied there was much change. “That's the way we played all year. Sometimes we get bogged down, but usually because we can't get out in transition.” That’s a lie. Former NBA stud Kenny “The Jet” Smith touched on that topic a bit.

A huge part of the playoffs is adjusting from game to game. If the Rockets, led by Harden, played the same way in game 1, they would never beat the Warriors. The series is tied 1-1 and the next game will show if the Rockets will hold onto their current strategy.

On the flip side, LeBron James and the Cavaliers are down 0-2 to the Boston Celtics. Changes not only must be made but it must be sustained for LeBron and Harden to advance. Otherwise, both MVP candidates will miss out on the NBA Finals.