James Harden played like an MVP Friday night, scoring 44 points and grabbing 14 boards, making key plays down the stretch, and lifting the Nets to a 113-111 win over a feisty Pistons team.
Harden has had a lot of games like this since coming to Brooklyn, and was asked after this game if he thinks he is in the MVP mix this season.
“I feel like I am the MVP. It’s just that simple.”
When asked to bolster his MVP case, Harden said:
“Numbers are showing it for itself, and we’re winning. That’s all I can say.”
Of course, Harden feels like this pretty much every year, but this season he certainly is part of the conversation — especially in the most wide-open MVP race in memory. Since coming to Brooklyn he has averaged 25.4 points with an amazing 61.7 true shooting percentage, plus 8.7 rebounds and a league-best 11.5 assists a game. He has taken on the facilitator role in Brooklyn, and has had to carry a heavy load with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both missing time.
The knock on Harden’s MVP case is the entire season counts, including the part where he showed up to Houston’s training camp late and out of shape, demanded a trade, yelled at teammates, and torpedoed that franchise’s season. Some voters will hold that against him.
But since putting on a Nets uniform, Harden has looked every bit the MVP. He has every right to feel he deserves it.
It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.
Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.
The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.
Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).
Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.
If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.
Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).
With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.
Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.
Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.
The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.
It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.
Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.
Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).
One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.