With 7 seconds left in the game, and up by 2, the Rockets have Westbrook double teamed at his own half, and find themselves in a great position to win. Thing is Russ somehow finds Adams, and when he gets the ball back P.J. Tucker is the last defender in the middle covering the 2 corners. So when Paul George gets the pass from Russ, despite the great effort from P.J., there is just enough time and space for George to hit the dagger 3 and win the game for OKC.
And this shot may have possibly given the MVP award to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Let me explain why.
Right off the bat, to understand why this shot was so important, please bear with me for just 1 minute and allow me to give you some context to this.
Let me give you a perfect example of how a narrative influences the MVP conversation.
Check out the 2016-17 season stats for Russell Westbrook who was the MVP, and the runner up- James Harden.
You can see that the 2 players are pretty much neck and neck when it comes to stats.
Both of them have their own categories but it’s very close.
Now when it’s this close, usually the deciding factor is team success. Which is heavily in favor of Harden since the Rockets had 8 more wins than the Thunder that year and ended as the third seed as opposed to the sixth.
However, the trump card, the ace of spades in Russell’s pocket was this thing called narrative.
A story building his case for MVP. He averaged a tripple double for the whole season.
That term holds such an enormous power and force, that made people vote for Westbrook.
Now what I want you to do, is just forget about the word tripple double like it didn’t exist.
And just look at the numbers. Again, they are very close, and factoring in the Rockets success, the Beard should easily win the award.
Since if we imagine that he had 10 rebounds per game as well, what would the narrative be?
It would be: “oh, well both players average a tripple double so we’ll give it to the guy with the better record.” All of a sudden we see that this powerful phrase that can catapult a player to an MVP award, is actually worth 1.9 rebounds per game in this situation.
But that’s the thing, James Harden couldn’t say those 3 magical words to defend his case, his story his narrative, and he lost by a guy with almost exact same numbers as him, with significantly lower level of team success.
And that is further confirmed by last year and this year, where Westbrook is once again averaging a tripple double, the team success is the same, but he is nowhere in the conversation for MVP. Isn’t that crazy? That just shows you how it was just a novelty thing, a flashy phrase and as soon as people got over that term and came back to looking at the overall picture including team success, it’s all different.
Ok so what does this have anything to do with the shot, and with the current events?
Well this year it’s extremely close to call as well, and once again the narrative comes into play.
If you’ve been watching shows or listening to podcasts with NBA journalists who actually have a vote, a lot of them have been comparing the phenomenal 50 point performances and the 30 point streak of the Beard, with the strong season of Giannis, leading his team to the best record in the NBA.
And I’ve seen more than a few situations, where the voters say, that they want to wait until the final day of the season to see how all things play out.
So imagine this: Let’s say that the Rockets finish second in the West. The tough, strong, killer western conference, and we add the fact that Harden had a streak of 32 games with 30 or more points, along with a 50 point tripple double which is unbelievable, then you have a narrative saying: “Well Milwaukee is #1 in their conference, Houston is #2 in the west so both teams are successful, but Harden has some crazy individual numbers”, and to be honest, this story holds weight the same way that the Westbrook’s story did. Meaning that James Harden could possibly get the MVP.
And the funny thing is, right here, if they can only defend this possession, that 2 spot is guaranteed and locked up for them. In this moment the Beard may already be thinking about his acceptance speech.
But, we all know what happens. Crazy scramble, PG hits the game winning three, and along with a few other results that happened on the next and final day of the season, the Rockets ended up at number 4 in the West.
Which again, in James Harden’s case, this 1 win could possibly mean the same as those 1.9 rebounds per game in 2016.
The situation just doesn’t make up a good enough narrative.
Compared to the case for Giannis, who’s also been spectacular and showed that consistently throughout the whole season, and on top of that led his team to the best record in the league,
The Greek Freak he is more than deserving to win it.