While I wasn’t willing to wake up at 4:00am to watch the Pacers and Magic battle it out live in Orlando, I did manage to get myself out of bed at 6:30 – just in time to see my ex-lover, CP3, strut his stuff in front of a jacked up crowd in the Staples Center. It seemed like a pretty nice moment for him, I just can’t say the same for myself.

3 votes – James Harden. When we all made our first round playoff predictions, I was the only idiot who went against the Thunder, and I did so for one simple reason — I didn’t think the Thunder had any playmakers who could be effective against the Mavs stingy zone defense in late game situations — I forgot about one guy.

For over a year now, James Harden has been a model of consistency for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s provided them with a spark off the bench with his ability to play multiple positions on either side of the court, shoot from outside and finish strong at the cup. He’s been widely accepted as the league’s 6th man of the year, and after performances like this, you can’t help but think that this 22 year old stud can accomplish so much more in his career.

With less than 10 minutes to go in regulation I was willing to write this one off and accept that OKC would have to settle for the gentleman’s sweep (4-1) at home. Dirk was feeling it, J-Kidd was feeling it, and Jason Terry had just drilled a three to put the Mavs up by 13.

But then James Harden came out to play. He went on an absolute tear throughout the fourth, scoring 15 of his total 29 points in the quarter and single handedly bringing his team back in to the game. Harden scored 7 straight for the Thunder, then hit KD in rhythm for a warm-up three to bring the Thunder within a single possession of taking the lead. From that point on the game was all Harden’s and there was nothing the Mavs could do about it.

2 votes – Chris Paul. I was pretty sure that a combination of Chris Paul’s huge plays in the fourth quarter, and his superb line of 24 points, 11 assists and 4 steals would have been enough to secure him 3 votes as the top player of the day, but it wasn’t quite enough on a day that James Harden tore the socks off everyone wearing a Dallas Mavericks jersey.

However Chris Paul’s three huge plays down the stretch of this game were more than enough to secure him a pair of votes. His pull-up jumper over Marc Gasol with two minutes to go gave the Clippers a two-point lead. On the next possession he stripped Gasol in the lane, then calmly hit Blake Griffin with a no-look bounce pass (in traffic) to put his team up four with a little over a minute to go. It’s games like these that make New Orleans Hornets fans realise how much we’re missing out on.

1 vote – David West. Twelve months ago I would have been over the moon about Chris Paul and David West combining for 50 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds in a single day of playoff action. Today, not so much.

I’m one of the few people who feels David West has been so underrated in the NBA that he’s almost overrated. He’s a consummate professional, a 20-10 guy, and above everything else, he’s tough as nails. West made some huge plays for Indy tonight, particularly when his number was called in OT. He finished the game with 26 points and 12 rebounds.

Throughout this series the Indiana Pacers have reminded me a lot of the Atlanta Hawks teams we’ve grown accustomed to watching for the first couple of rounds in the playoffs. They are a nice team, they’ve shown they have the necessary pieces to secure home court on a yearly basis, but that doesn’t mean they are a ever going to be a threat to advance past the second round.

However, David West is the one piece to the puzzle that the Atlanta Hawks teams have never really had. A player who will draw attention away from the primary scoring option and as a result, give him some easier looks. As West continues to gel with the Pacers, it should lead to a more confident Danny Granger, finally coming closer to the potential some thought he might never reach.

Some honourable mentions have to go out to Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd. They did more than enough to keep the defending champs alive in this series. Unfortunately, James Harden did a little more.


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