NBA Western Conference Finals: The battle between Steph Curry and James Harden

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Steph Curry and James Harden will lead their respective sides in the Western Conference finals.

(CNN Philippines) — The debate will have a definite conclusion.

As the regular season unfolded, Steph Curry and James Harden were making a case for themselves for this season’s MVP award.

Curry was leading the Golden State Warriors to the league’s best record, putting on memorable performances night in and night out. Harden, meanwhile, was dealing with injuries to Dwight Howard and most of his teammates for most of the season, but carried the team to a second-seed finish in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

Curry eventually won the award in a surprisingly lopsided fashion despite all the debate in the regular season.

Now, these two have a chance to lead their respective teams to the NBA Finals, going head to head in proving who the real MVP is.

Jump-shooting teams can win

The Warriors shoot a lot. That's what happens when you have Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

Golden State is trying to break the notion that jump-shooting teams can’t win it all, and are one step away from getting the chance to show that they can.

They made quick work of the Anthony Davis-led New Orleans Pelicans in a four-game sweep and in the semifinals, they faced a Memphis team who are the complete opposite of them.

The Grizzlies, a gritty team known for pounding the ball inside, didn’t make the Warriors' path to the Conference Finals a cakewalk by any means. However, they just didn’t have enough to stop the rampage Curry unleashed in Game 6.

Can the MVP’s shooting lead his team to its first title since 1975?

Related: Rockets take Game 7 against Clippers to advance to Western Conference finals

Fear the Beard

While Curry was the best player on the best team this year, Harden made a case for himself by actually being the most valuable player on the Rockets’ roster.

In the regular season he led the Rockets with 27.4 points per game, second only to Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City, and averaged 26.3 points throughout the Playoffs to help his team reach the Conference Finals.

The Rockets took care of the Dallas Mavericks in the first round and moved on to face a determined Los Angeles Clippers team who was fresh off beating the San Antonio Spurs in an exciting first round encounter.

Houston went down 3-1 in the series, and seemed as if they were headed for an early vacation, but Harden had other plans. The Rockets regained their senses and won three straight games over the Clippers to advance to the Conference Finals.

Key matchups

Steph Curry has made it past two defensive teams in the New Orleans Pelicans and the Memphis Grizzlies, but shouldn't expect an easier time against the Rockets.

While he could easily get past 37-year-old Jason Terry and the just-turned-38 Pablo Prigioni, Houston will plug in their best defenders on him in an effort to slow him down.

With defensive point guard Patrick Beverly out with an injury, swingman Trevor Ariza will have to slide down defensively to match up against Curry for most of the series.

James Harden is the most potent scoring threat for the Rockets, which makes the assignment of Draymond Green, the Warriors’ best defender, a no-brainer.

Though stopping Harden is a big part of beating the Rockets, his offensive explosions don’t necessarily result in wins either.

The Rockets will need all the help they can get from Josh Smith. The versatile big man is a capable defender who can make plays on offense – two things the Rockets need help from if Ariza will be busy guarding Curry and with their point guard rotation thin and old.

Meanwhile, the Warriors will need Harrison Barnes to step up on both ends of the floor. With both Curry and Thompson possibly shackled by Houston defenders and Green focused on the defensive end, Barnes must be ready to pounce on the Rockets.