Balls: HARDEN SHOULDN’T HOPE WHAT HE WISHED FOR 

James Harden wanted the chance to prove that he and not Stephen Curry deserved the Most Valuable Player award this season. Pretty much said so to a national television audience on Sunday, when his Houston Rockets put the Los Angeles Clippers out of their misery in Game 7 of the other Western Conference semifinals series.

“We’re overlooked all the time,” Harden sniffed. “I’m overlooked. We don’t worry about. We got out there and just fight. That’s what it about.”

OK, we’re lookin’. Now show us that you got more than a beard.

BRING ON LEBRON!: Curry and the Warriors dominated Harden and the Rockets in the regular-season series, 4-zip, but sometimes those numbers are meaningless. This isn’t one of them. The NBA playoffs are about matchups, and Rockets coach Kevin McHale is about to realize his worst nightmare.

Trevor Ariza will make Klay Thompson earn his points, but who will guard Curry at the other guard spot? The Rockets’ best small defender is Patrick Beverley, and he’s out of commission after wrist surgery. That leaves 74-year-old Jason Terry or 76-year-old Pablo Prigioni on Curry at least some of the time. Lord help them. Because Harden gambles so much on defense, he’s a liability in man coverage. McHale can try to hide him against Harrison Barnes, except that Barnes has hit the open shot consistently of late.

Make it Warriors in five, six max.

GOOD-BYE, OLD FRIENDS: Too bad the Clippers and the Warriors won’t hook up this postseason, because it may be a while before they play in a competitive series again. The Warriors are deep, young and athletic, and the Clippers are none of those things right now.

While Blake Griffin and Chris Paul played on fumes in the final game, stiffs like Matt Barnes, Glen Davis, Spencer Hawes and Austin Rivers combined to score four more points than a dead person. Griffin has superstar potential, but at 30, Paul has seen better days. The Clippers also have to make a decision on DeAndre Jordan, who can leave as a free agent this summer.

All of a sudden, one of the hottest rivalries in the NBA has the look of two ships passing in the night — and it’s obvious which one is the S.S. Minnow.

CLIP ‘N’ SAVE: If the Clippers hadn’t blown a 19-point lead in Game 6 on Thursday night, they would have faced a well-worn team in the conference finals opener. The Warriors didn’t hit the pillows until around 5 a.m. on Saturday after their flight from Memphis was late to get off the ground.

How much did the Warriors need the time off?

“Badly. Badly,” Kerr said after a brief workout on Sunday. “I can’t even imagine playing a game an hour from now.”

That’s two badly’s for those of you scoring at home.

“Yesterday was a strange day,” Kerr said. “It felt like we had flown overseas or something, so this is perfect.”

Come to think of it, Memphis is in another country, right?

WHERE’S WALDO?: Will that geography wiz in the NBA front office please stand up?

In the Western Conference playoffs, the Warriors will have played New Orleans, Memphis and Houston, of which only H-town is entirely west of the Mississippi River. Barely.

Makes you wonder if the league should forget about two conferences and divide itself into three divisions — Eastern, Central and Western.

SCARY CURRY: Kerr called Curry the best combination of shooter-ball-handler that he had ever seen. Balls wouldn’t disagree with him, although Pistol Pete Maravich might be a close second.

“Most shooters need somebody else to create space for their shot,” Kerr said. “He creates it on his own. The ball-handling, the quickness, the speed, the fearlessness – it’s a pretty unique combination.”

Just wait ’til Curry gets really good . . .

“Steph is so skilled and so mature, he’s going to better whether I’m here or not, honestly,” Kerr said. “He works at his game. He wants to get better.”

JUST ASKIN’: If the Rockets and the Atlanta Hawks meet in the NBA Finals, would ABC televise the series live or on tape delay?

JUST SAYIN’: Rockets-Hawks ain’t happenin’.

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? (A compliment?!?) Send them to pladewski@sfexaminer.com and you may get your name in the paper one day.

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