Five Things We Learned in NBA Monday: James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis all pad MVP resumes

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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while thinking photos of people covered in honey are pretty cool

1) It’s not always pretty, but James Harden gets the numbers, a little help, and the Ws. James Harden’s game is to attack and put pressure on everyone — the defenders to stop him and the referees not to call the contact he creates. It works. After a slow start to the game Sunday for Houston, Harden took over the final six minutes of the first half, putting up 18 of his 34 points in the quarter. It all started after Matt Barnes picked up a flagrant for throwing Harden down. It changed the flow of the game. Chris Paul did a solid job defending Harden late — Harden was 1-of-5 for four points in the fourth — but then the Clippers were undone by their own sloppiness with the game on the line. The Clippers had six fourth-quarter turnovers and seemed to go hunting for calls rather than shots. Harden forces contact, but he’s looking for his shot the whole time and finishes through that contact well.

Plus Harden got a little help.

Clippers/Rockets may a playoff series preview. I hope not. It would just be a lot of free throws and complaining to the officials from both sides. I prefer basketball.

2) Russell Westbrook keeps getting numbers — and getting his team wins they need to have. New Orleans lost to Denver Sunday, so Oklahoma City’s win Sunday moved them back into the eighth seed and final playoff spot in the West. They got it because of Westbrook. He scored 36 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. But more than that, as he has done through this entire stretch of basketball, he just puts pressure on the other team. He does it attacking in transition. He does it with his defense. Sometimes it is both.

He is just a force of nature right now. He’s also getting a lot of help — Steven Adams and Enes Kanter combined for 32 points and 29 boards against Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah.

3) Anthony Davis puts up numbers to rival anyone else, can we get the man some help? Check out Anthony Davis’ final line from Sunday: 36 points, 14 rebounds, nine blocks, and seven assists. According to Basketball-Reference.com, no other player in the last 30 seasons has posted a line with at least those numbers. Nobody. Still the Pelicans lost 118-111. There are a couple things at play in that double-overtime result. First, sometimes it’s about when you catch a team on the schedule, and interim coach Melvin Hunt has Denver playing well again. However, the Pelicans have issues. With Ryan Anderson down they lack three-point shooting (Tyreke Evans was 4-of-11, every one else on New Orleans was a combined for 2-of-11). When they beat the Nuggets recently, Evans and Eric Gordon had success posting up Ty Lawson, but the Pelicans went away from that Sunday. The Pelicans’ defense is inconsistent and while Davis blocked everything he could the Nuggets still had 64 points in the paint. Finally, the Pelicans were just sloppy with the ball in stretches. This was the kind of game they needed to get into the playoffs, and they lost. Even with Davis doing things like this.

4) LeBron tweaked knee and could sit out second return to Miami Monday. LeBron put up impressive numbers — 21 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists — pretty quietly Sunday as the Cavaliers had little trouble against the Magic. But things got scary for Cleveland in the third quarter when LeBron tried to block Dewayne Dedmon’s shot, landed awkwardly and tweaked his knee. LeBron played through it, but after the game wondered if he would need to sit out a game or two to rest it, just to be safe. The Cavaliers travel to Miami Monday night, and while that game loses some luster without LeBron Cleveland should be able to beat slumping Miami. Maybe even Kevin Love will get to play.

5) Manu Ginobili can still make plays, which is why the Spurs will miss him for the next week. Manu Ginobili is showing his age this season. The Spurs’ fan favorite is shooting just 43 percent, and he’s been more of a solid role player than guy you lean on (Kawhi Leonard has taken over his spot in the Spurs big three). But give him the chance and Ginobili can still make plays, just ask Kevin Martin.

Which is why the Spurs will miss him — Ginobili sprained his ankle in the win over Minnesota and will be out a week to 10 days.

Celtics’ Jayson Tatum: “Trade rumors don’t bother me”

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Jayson Tatum was one of the young Celtics who struggled to find his space this season with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back in the mix. Tatum wasn’t shooting the three as well, was taking more long twos, and just seemed to plateau from last season rather than take the leap forward that was expected.

Playoff Tatum has looked more like what we expected, 19.8 points per game, 58 percent shooting from three, and impressive shot creation. That, of course, has rekindled the “are they going to trade him for Anthony Davis” talk. To which Tatum just shrugs, speaking to the New York Times.

“Trade rumors don’t bother me,” he said in his deep monotone. “They’re talking about trading me for guys like Anthony Davis. So, I mean, I must be doing something pretty well.” When pressed on whether this bothered him, he didn’t budge: “I love the game of basketball. Being traded is part of the game. I’ll play for whomever. It’s something I can’t control.”

That echoes what Tatum has said all year. This wasn’t the Laker locker room (which was a different circumstance), Tatum was unphased by the rumors that swirled around him and felt management would be upfront with him.

New Pelicans head man David Griffin has said in the past what he would look for in a Davis trade is one young All-Star player, other good young players or picks, and a veteran role player or two to stabilize the locker room. Tatum would be the young likely future All-Star. The guy who did this to LeBron James just a year ago.

Whether Tatum is traded or not depends on a lot of things — what direction Pelicans’ ownership wants to go with the trade, whether Kyrie Irving remains in Boston this summer, what other surprise offers for Davis or other stars come in — and none of it is within Tatum’s control. So he’s going to do his thing.

In the playoffs, that thing has been impressive.

Jimmy Butler, Jared Dudley ejected after scuffle following Joel Embiid block

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Welcome to the playoffs.

Emotions already were running high as Brooklyn faced what isn’t officially but might as well be a must-win game Saturday.

Then with 7:42 left in the third quarter this happened, and all those emotions burst out.

It started with Joel Embiid making a hard block on a Jarrett Allen dunk attempt. Brooklyn’s Jared Dudley — who started for the Nets and has been huge for them this series — came in to protect his man and shoved Embiid. Then Jimmy Butler decided to protect his guy and ran in and shoved Dudley. Then it all broke loose, including D'Angelo Russell moving the pile with his shove.

After the official reviewed the video (and consulted with the official video center), Butler and Dudley were ejected as instigators — that is a win for Brooklyn, the 76ers lost the better player in that trade.

Embiid was given a flagrant 1 for a foul with contact to the head. For my money that’s over the top in this case, he got the ball and blocked the shot, and this is the playoffs. That was not an intentional blow.

The Nets got a couple free throws and the game moved on, but you can be sure this is going to linger.

The playoffs are just more fun when there is bad blood between the teams.

Joel Embiid playing, starting for 76ers in Game 4 in Brooklyn

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Philadelphia can take a commanding 3-1 series lead over Brooklyn with a win on Saturday.

The Sixers will have Joel Embiid in the paint for that game.

Embiid, battling a sore knee, has averaged 22.5 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, and he’s been a defensive presence, but he has not been his same, explosive self. He has missed some bunnies around the rim and just has not been right. It’s clear watching him.

Still, Philly is better with him on the court (as long as the aggressive Ben Simmons still shows up). With him in the paint and a quick end to the series, Philly may be able to get some rest for Embiid before the second round. But Brooklyn will not make that easy on Saturday or the rest of the way.

Missouri’s Jontay Porter announces he will enter NBA Draft

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Jontay Porter — the younger brother of Denver’s Michael Porter Jr., who did not play all season as he recovered from back issues — was impressive as a freshman, the one season he played at Missouri. He averaged 9.9 points and 6.8 rebounds a game (mostly off the bench), showed a shooting touch from three, he plays a high IQ game, and at 6’11” he has NBA size and a strong frame.

But since then Porter has been a story of injuries. A lot of them. He did not play this past season after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee back in October. By his own admission he tried to rush back and tore the same ACL again in March.

Now, Porter is declaring he will enter the NBA Draft.

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Porter has legitimate potential as a stretch five in the NBA, but the knee injuries and questions about Porter’s athleticism (he’s not athletic by NBA standards) makes teams hesitant. That’s why Porter is projected as a second-round pick, a big man with potential but one who needs time to get healthy and develop.

A couple other draft notes:

• Charles Bassey, the 6’11” big man out of Western Kentucky, will test the draft. He is projected as a late second rounder, if drafted at all.

Mike Daum, who averaged 25.3 points and 11.7 rebounds a game this past season for South Dakota State, has entered the draft and signed with Octagon Sports. He needs to impress at combines and workouts to make sure he gets drafted.

• Two European big men, Louis Olinde (6’10” out of Germany) and Aleksander Balcerowski (7’1” center from Poland) both have put their names in the NBA Draft pool. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony announced both of the Euros looking to come to the NBA.