They are led by MVPs.
The Houston Rockets are led by probable NBA MVP in James Harden like the ‘Stros were led by 2017 AL MVP Jose Altuve. Both had to shake off concerns that their MVP performances wouldn’t continue during the postseason.
In the Astros’ surprise trip to October in 2015, Altuve went a meager 4-26 at the plate with no extra-base hits. Despite his absolute dominance in the regular season, pundits and experts chalked up Altuve’s performances as a fluke.
He would be unable to succeed when the pressure was on the most, and he responded by batting .310 with 7 homers and excellent defense and provided some of the ‘Stros’ most memorable moments en route to a World Series title.
Harden has been regarded as a non-entity in the playoffs since his days with the Oklahoma City Thunder. At that time, he was supposed to provide offensive firepower for them off of the bench. However, in the 2012 NBA Finals, he was only able to shoot 37.5% and averaged 12.4 points per game. Both considerably less than his regular season averages.
He maintained that reputation by never seemingly being able to push the Rockets to their highest point. Most notably, his dud performance in Game 6 at home against the San Antonio Spurs in last year’s Western Conference Semifinals.
This year Harden is averaging his highest points per game in the playoffs at 28.8 while also playing the fewest playoff minutes per game since he got to Houston. He has been able to do more and shoulder less of the load. He has the Rockets poised to take a crucial series lead in Game 5 at the Toyota Center.