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Three Things to Know: Russell Westbrook passes Chamberlain, Harden still chasing

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Russell Westbrook passes Wilt Chamberlain with 10th straight triple-double — and it’s still Paul George’s night. I fear we take what Russell Westbrook is doing for granted. Nobody — not Jordan, Dr. J., Bird, Magic, LeBron, Smush Parker (especially Smush Parker) — had been able to average a triple-double for a season since Oscar Robertson did it back when John F. Kennedy was president and gas cost 28¢ a gallon. It was an unreachable mark.

Russell Westbrook is on pace to do it for a third straight season. The former MVP is averaging 21.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 11.2 assists per game.

Monday night his 21 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists was his 10th consecutive triple-double — surpassing Wilt Chamberlain to set a new NBA record. Any time someone passes Wilt on a scoring list, that’s a legendary feat.

And he was the second best player on his team.

Paul George continued his “put me in the MVP race” run of play with 47 points 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

The MVP talk for George is no joke.

Westbrook and George made even more history: This was the first time ever teammates have had 20-point triple-doubles in the same game.

Oklahoma City picked up the 120-111 win against Portland in a game that could have seeding implications in a crowded West down the line.

2) James Harden’s 30-point streak extends, barely, to 30 games in Rockets win. Dallas looked as if it was going to be the team. At some point, James Harden’s streak of 30+ point games is going to end. He’s going to miss some shots, a team will have the waves of long defenders to throw at him, or like Monday night the Rockets could be well ahead (21 points) and Harden would sit the fourth and not be needed, not have the chance to get his numbers.

Harden almost was going to ride this one out on the pine, but Dallas made a 17-7 fourth-quarter run that had the game in single digits more than midway through the fourth, so Mike D’Antoni had to turn back to his star to seal the win.

Harden scored 11 quick points to secure the victory. He drained a step-back three and then hit another from beyond the arc, he got to the line for some free throws. Finally, he drained a deep three that extended the streak — watch him laugh and point to his mother as he runs back down the court.

That’s 30 games in a row of 30+ points for Harden, one short of tying Wilt Chamberlain’s second-longest streak ever of 31 games. The all-time streak is 65 from Wilt, and it’s wild to think Harden isn’t even halfway there.

Houston got the 120-104 win Monday, and that’s been the real MVP move about Harden’s streak — when it started the Rockets were below .500 and out of the playoffs at 13th in the West. Harden is in a zone and putting up points, but more importantly, he’s willed his teams to win and into the postseason chase.

3) Brooklyn makes Toronto work for it, but Kawhi Leonard hits the game winner. Even if he didn’t call bank. A lot of teams, down heading into the final minutes against one of the better teams in the NBA, would roll over and accept their fate. Not Brooklyn. They scrap, they fight, they will not go quietly into that good night.

Monday night the never-say-die Nets went on an 8-0 run late to make it a tight game and force a dramatic ending.D'Angelo Russell hit from beyond the arc to put the Nets up three, but then Danny Green answered to tie the game. However, after a Joe Harris miss, Kawhi Leonard got the rock and knew he was brought to Toronto to hit shots like this.

That Leonard shot had echoes Kobe Bryant — got to his spot at the elbow, elevated, and wasn’t afraid to use the glass. Not a bad guy to mimic.

After the game, Leonard admitted he didn’t call bank. Doesn’t matter. Russell missed a contested three as time ran out, and the Raptors held on for the 127-125 win.

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

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Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates for helping him reach this point, then talking about his father.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.

Antetokounmpo won the award handily with 941 points to Harden’s 776. The Greek Freak had 78 of the 100 first place votes.

James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win and was frustrated with another second.

Antetokounmpo is the first player from Europe to win the MVP award since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

Nikola Jokic came in fourth in the voting, Stephen Curry was fifth. Here are the full results:

 

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

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Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.

This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year

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Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).

It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).

Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.

He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.

Clippers’ Lou Williams won second-straight, third overall Sixth Man of Year Award

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The Clippers bench play this season was the reason they made the playoffs (and pushed the Warriors to six games in the first round). Montrezl Harrell blossomed into his own as part of that.

However, it was Lou Williams who made it all work, which is why he won his second straight (and third overall) Sixth Man of the Year Award on Monday night. He garnered 96 of the 100 first-place votes.

Williams spoke from the heart about second chances and his faith in himself.

“Four years ago, I thought I was done, like I was coming to the end of my career,” Williams said.

Williams averaged 20 points a game and he is still one of the better bucket getters in the NBA, an isolation master. What he did better this year, however, was playmaking, dishing out 5.4 assists per game. His teammate Montrezl Harrell — the NBA’s best energy big off the bench last season who finished third in the Sixth Man voting — was the biggest beneficiary of those passes.

Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis came in second in the voting, with Spencer Dinwiddie of the Nets third and Terrence Ross of Orlando fifth. Here is the voting breakdown.