Can the Warriors end James Harden’s MVP chances?

Mar 28, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) steals the ball from Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) in the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) steals the ball from Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) in the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

The Golden State Warriors have been absolutely fantastic against James Harden. Can they end his MVP campaign with another suffocating performance?

The Golden State Warriors are really tough to play. They make even the best look human. So far, they’ve done that to James Harden.

The Beard has struggled mightily against the Warriors this season. In three matchups, he is shooting 34 percent from the field. Even worse, he’s just 3/25 on three-pointers against the Dubs and has 20 turnovers.

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He’s had a tough time getting going. Even his best game was inefficient and not just by his own lofty standards. Harden is a great player so the Warriors have made a concerted effort to slowing him down. So far, they’ve been successful.

Golden State has multiple defenders that can work together to try to slow down Harden. Klay Thompson is the first that comes to mind. He’s been wonderful on the Rockets’ guard. But he isn’t doing it on his own.

Andre Iguodala, still one of the game’s premier individual defenders, has been fantastic against Harden. The Houston star is very good at drawing fouls. He plays with pace and dupes defenders into reaching. When he sees the defender reach, he pulls the ball up and gets the contact.

Iguodala is an intelligent and disciplined defender. He knows when to swipe at the ball and, when he does, he generally gets the ball. Harden hasn’t really been able to rely on that when the 2015 Finals MVP guards him.

The Warriors also have the frontrunner for this year’s Defensive Player of the Year award. Draymond Green is an amazing defender, but Harden is a tough cover for him. He has a quickness that sometimes catches Green off guard. Still, the Warriors’ All-Star can force tough shots at difficult angles.

In addition to those top three defenders, the Warriors have Matt Barnes and Shaun Livingston to take a turn on him. Even on the off chance that Steph Curry switches out onto him, he has quick hands and knows how to funnel his man to the help defense. Basically, Golden State can give him a lot of looks.

In their last meeting, Curry outplayed him. While Harden had a triple-double, Curry embarrassed him and his team in the Toyota Center. He did whatever he wanted whenever he wanted to do it and Harden was helpless.

Harden and Russell Westbrook are locked in one of the best and highest MVP races ever. When one guy does something special, it seems like the other one tops it the next night. The award is up for grabs.

Unfortunately for the Beard, he’s playing with an injured wrist that has slowed him down for a few games now. Meanwhile, Westbrook had one of the most spectacular games of the season with his 57 point triple-double and his clutch play against the Orlando Magic. They’re trending in opposite directions.

Harden can regain any lost ground with a stunning performance against the Warriors. If he can walk into Oracle Arena and leave with (another) victory, then he gains some serious points. Even if he doesn’t win, he has to be more efficient and he can’t get blown out.

The Warriors have dominated the Rockets over the last few years. This dominance has extended to the suppression of Harden’s individual brilliance. Golden State now has a chance to step on his MVP candidacy’s throat and crush the windpipe.

This MVP is so close that voters are going to have to split hairs. A late season drop off could negate all of the amazing play from the rest of the season especially while Westbrook continues to put the pedal to the medal. It’s that close.

It’s so close that one game could end it. The Warriors have the chance of ending the Rockets’ star’s chances at the Maurice Podoloff trophy. It’s there if they want it.

Golden State is playing like a team that’s ready for the playoffs. They’re locked in. They also love to accept personal challenges and they seem to relish slowing down someone that’s vying for the MVP award. They’ve done it to Westbrook, Harden, and Kawhi Leonard in the last week or so.

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That isn’t to say he can’t recover, but he is running out of time especially with an injured wrist. It looked as if Golden State might have damaged Westbrook’s chances earlier, but he’s more than made up for it. Harden could do the same, but his window is closing.

The Warriors can and, probably will, end Harden’s MVP chances. It’s probably unfair considering how a uniquely great team like Golden State can usually neutralize a wonderful player like Harden. But that’s life in the NBA, especially when the MVP race is so tight.

Harden really needs to step up. The Warriors will look to make sure that doesn’t happen.