2. James Harden vs. Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler recently returned from injury and just pushed the Timberwolves into the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets in an overtime battle for the eighth seed. Butler was a potential MVP candidate earlier this year and had the Wolves maintaining a hold over the fourth seed for much of the year until his injury. On the other side of the court will be MVP candidate James Harden, who’s elevated his game to an even greater level this year with Chris Paul by his side. Harden will be the fresher of both with Butler rushing back to get the Wolves into the playoffs.
We’re talking about the NBA’s leading scorer in Harden, meaning Butler will have quite the task defensively. Butler has always been a great defensive player, dating back to his Chicago Bulls days, but there’s just no stopping Harden this year. The Wolves might have to collectively decide to let Harden get his while stifling the rest of the Rockets from raining down easy 3s. That’s if they want to have an chance of stealing this series. While the Wolves are better talent-wise than their seeding, and have Karl-Anthony Towns as their X-Factor, the Houston Rockets play this year cannot be denied.
Next: LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol vs. Draymond Green, JaVale McGee