Yes I know the MVP votes are due to what happens during the regular season but the last player to win the award and not make the playoffs was in, never. A MVP has to lead his team to the playoffs, the exception to the rule this season should have been Westbrook (but that’s another story). One of the top vote-getters this season was James Harden of the Houston Rockets.
What he accomplished in the regular season was remarkable but that was dominance over an 82 game schedule. If you did enough to win the MVP and get your team to the post season why stop now? What has happened? Did he run out of gas? Has the defense gotten tougher? Did they forget how to play efficient basketball over the last few games? I don’t know but what I do know is he needs to step up and be the player he was last series. I for one would not want to sit at home and watch highlights of my regular season performance sorry Russell), I would rather much come June, sit back and watch highlights of my playoff performances. You think I’m being hard on him huh, I can prove my point.
Round 1 vs the Dallas Mavericks Harden controlled the offense and the series. Dirk and Co was no match for him as he put up stat lines of 30/8/5 as the Rockets went on to win the series 4-1. Many thought the Rockets could be the team to put the most fear into the top seeded Warriors but between that series and their second round matchup with the Clippers something has happened with Harden and the Rockets. Here is my problem with the play of Harden. A MVP type player is supposed to lead his team and the series started off with Chris Paul missing the first two games but yet the Rockets won only one. I know all the blame can’t be placed on Harden but blood was in the water and they didn’t go for the kill. Austin Rivers is having a better series than most of the Rockets players and while Harden has put upoff the map series download they are nowhere near the kind he did in the first round. Winning is the only numbers that count in the playoffs.
He was praised throughout the season for his great shot selection and his improved defense but during this series it seems that his confidence is a bit shaken. If he has to take 30-40 shots so what, it seems no one wants to be that Kobe or Jordan type of player no more for fear of what the media will say about you but those same players they dog out for the amount of shots they take are the same players that have 5 or more rings. To be the MAN you have to BE the man. You come out blazing like that and your teammates will do their job. I don’t know what’s going on with Josh Smith. Is Kevin McHale scared to coach against Doc Rivers? Is there anybody that can guard Blake Griffin? Chris Paul is not 100 percent and the Rockets still cannot get anything going. The Hack-a-Jordan plan is plain stupid, especially when you start it 3 minutes into the game. At some point Harden has to take control, stop worrying if the ball is being distributed enough among his teammates. He didn’t play the season like that and it almost got him a MVP trophy so why start it now. He has taken the Rockets this far and it has taken him 4 games to realize he needs to do more, that should have been discovered in Game 1. That is what leaders do.
He has been out-coached by Doc Rivers all series and if he doesn’t find a way to use the mismatches he has the Rockets will be done tonight. Griffin is unstoppable this postseason but if it’s one team that has the bodies to slow him down, the Rockets are the team. Terrance Jones and Josh Smith are both good defenders but McHale has had trouble finding the right defensive rotation. I thought McHale had a chance for Coach of the Year and what he did with his team in the first round against the Dallas Mavericks was outright genius but it’s not clicking against he Clippers and he has done nothing to try to fix it. Maybe they will come out focused with their backs against the wall but that depends on the mindset of their leader and so far McHale looks to be out of his element against Doc Rivers. His ploy to begin Hack-a-Jordan 3 minutes into the game was stupid and it shows that Rivers is controlling the series. Go ahead McHale and get your players and team in foul trouble. It doesn’t matter if he makes 14 out of 34 trips to the line, what does matter is that you never give a bad shooter that many chances to get into a rhythm, why do you think they stopped the Hack-a-Shaq deal in the playoffs, he got hot. Bad move by McHale.
Howard has had his moments in this series but he has also had some WTH moments as well. DeAndre Jordan is a great defender and may have claimed his spot as the best Center in the NBA this postseason but Howard is no slouch as long as his head is in the game. The Rockets know they can win without him but they need him against the Clippers. Against the Rockets it was all fun and games as Tyson Chandler could not contain the energy of Dwight who was just returning from injury but Jordan was ready and waiting and has pretty much dominated Howard while getting in his head. There is no secret that Howard will defeat himself if he feels the competition is up to par. He has to come focused to play in Game 5 or this is it for the Rockets.
I expect more from Harden, I expect him to take over. There is no one in the playoffs that can guard him one-on-one but yet the Rockets find themselves down 3-1. Players today look to cement themselves with the great players they grew up watching but some forget that legacy’s are made during the post season. Yes, Kobe lost two championships (some of today’s players might not ever make it to two Finals), but he also won 5. Jordan went undefeated in the Finals, you think those players didn’t do everything in their will to try to lead their teams. My problem with McHale is his inability to prove a point, don’t be scared to take chances, change the lineups, tell your team to be more aggressive and physical with the Clippers, Griffin especially. Tell Prigioni and Terry to attack the hamstring of Paul by going right at him. Barnes is a good defender but he cannot contain Ariza and Smith is the X-factor but those 27 minutes a night is not going to cut it, time for McHale to let him loose.
The series is not over and the bad play of the Rockets and a few bad moves by McHale has given the Clippers life and false hope that they are a great team. It’s Do or Die for the Rockets and I expect them to come out and make a point tonight.