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Associated Press

James Harden on MVP race: “I thought winning was what this is about”

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Russell Westbrook put the exclamation point on his MVP case Sunday, racking up his NBA record 42nd triple-double, then hitting the game-winner to end the Nuggets season.

Also Sunday, James Harden had his own triple-double with 31 points, 15 assists, and 11 rebounds. That improves Houston to 54-26 0n the season, eight more wins than Westbrook’s Thunder.

After the game, the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen asked Harden if team record should factor into the MVP voting.

If it’s the “most important thing” then Harden just made a nice case for Kawhi Leonard, his Spurs have 61 wins.

What makes the MVP debate fun is that there is no strict definition of who should get the award. Is it the most valuable to his team, regardless of record? How much does team success factor in, and with that how do you balance out the quality of players around the candidates? How much do you rely on advanced stats vs. the eyeball test? For most voters it’s a little of all of those, and the blend is more art than science. There is no simple answer.

And this year, if you vote for Harden or Westbrook or Leonard you’re not wrong — a compelling case can be made for any of them. And LeBron James. It’s what makes the debate that much more entertaining.

John Wall with chasedown block off backboard, out of bounds (VIDEO)

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That is a chasedown block with authority.

Washington’s John Wall tracked Miami’s Josh Richardson down and turned his layup attempt into an emphatic rejection, sending it off the backboard so hard it went out of bounds before anybody could get to it.

That wasn’t enough, the Heat beat the Wizards 106-103. That loss puts Washington in the four seed in the East, a full game back of Toronto for the three seed, which means Washington likely finishes fourth (and would have to face Cleveland in the second round). The win has the Heat in a tie with Chicago for the final playoff slot in the East.

DeAndre Jordan is throwing it down and Kawhi Leonard isn’t going to stop him (VIDEO)

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Kawhi Leonard is the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and he’s going to get plenty of votes this time around.

He made the right rotation on this play, getting across the lane and in the way of the guy driving the lane with his feet outside the restricted area — and it wasn’t going to matter. DeAndre Jordan was going to dunk and there was no stopping him.

The Clippers beat the Spurs 98-87, which when combined with a Jazz loss to the Trail Blazers has Utah and Los Angeles tied for the four seed in the West and home-court in the first round.

Watch as Damian Lillard scores Trail Blazers-record 59 points (VIDEO)

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Damian Lillard had no idea how close he was to the 60-point milestone.

He scored a franchise-record 59 points and matched his career high with nine 3-pointers to help the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Utah Jazz 101-86 on Saturday night.

Lillard surpassed Damon Stoudamire’s 54 points with a step-back 3-pointer with 1:49 left. With the crowd on its feet, he raised his arms in celebration then pounded his chest.

He had a chance at 60, but missed the first two of a trio of free throws with 23.1 seconds left. After the first miss, he thought 60 would be out of reach. He jokingly blamed teammate Noah Vonleh for being off by a point when he shouted out his total down the final stretch.

“When I missed the second one and everybody was like, `Ohhh,’ I was like, `What happened?’ Then I made the last one and looked up and I had 59,” he said, shaking his head. “And I was like – it’s Noah’s fault.”

The Blazers stayed in front of the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with just two games left.

 

Chris Paul scores 19 points, Clippers beat Spurs 98-87

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Chris Paul had 19 points and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the San Antonio Spurs 98-87 on Saturday night for their fifth straight victory.

DeAndre Jordan added 17 points and 17 rebounds to help Los Angeles preserve its hopes of hosting a first-round playoff series.

Los Angeles is a half-game behind Utah for the fourth seed and homecourt in the first-round series between the two. The Jazz played the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night.

Doc Rivers tied Mike Dunleavy for the Clippers franchise record with his 215th regular-season victory.

Kawhi Leonard had 28 points, and LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 points for San Antonio. The Spurs closed out their home schedule with just their 10th loss at the AT&T Center.

San Antonio is playing out the regular season after securing the No. 2 seed and first-round matchup against seventh-seeded Memphis.

The Clippers were 3-1 against San Antonio this season.

The Clippers went on an 8-0 run after the Spurs cut the lead to 72-68 on Leonard’s 15-footer. Los Angeles would take an 82-70 lead into the fourth quarter in a physical matchup between postseason-bound teams.

Aldridge had 10 points in the opening quarter, shooting 5 for 9 while primarily being defended by Griffin. Aldridge scored eight straight points in the opening quarter, including a pair of turnaround jumpers on Griffin and powering past Marresse Speights for a layup.

The Clippers responded by outscoring the Spurs 48-32 in the paint.

TIP-INS

Clippers: Austin Rivers has missed four straight games with a strained left hamstring. . Los Angeles is 23-13 against teams with winning records this season. … Diamond Stone sat out because of soreness in his left knee. He has missed 24 games with a bruised bone in his left knee. … The Clippers have limited Leonard to 13.7 points in 55 career games, his lowest average against any team in the league.

Spurs: Danny Green was running and shooting without discomfort prior to the game after missing five straight games with a bruised left quadriceps. Green is expected to play in the team’s final two games. “Danny’s going to be OK, I’m just keeping him out another night, just to be sure,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. … Leonard has scored in double figures in 106 straight games. … San Antonio completed the regular season with a 31-10 home record after matching a league record with a 40-1 mark last season. … Dejounte Murray has missed 16 straight games with an injured groin, but could play in the next game or two, Popovich said. … San Antonio will finish with 60-plus wins for the sixth time in franchise’s 43-year history.