Harden's triple-double helps Rockets over Wolves 123-118

Harden's triple-double helps Rockets over Wolves 123-118

James Harden, All-Star guard and MVP candidate, needs six assists to become the first player in history with 2,000 points, 900 assists and 600 rebounds in a season.

Here's how my ballot would look, and why Harden deserves the honor this season.

In a contest between two sides already eliminated from the post-season, the Denver Nuggets beat the Dallas Mavericks 109-91.

Westbrook had so many triple-doubles this season - a record 42 - that people actually have been belittling them while arguing against him for MVP. He finished only third on the MVP ballot that year. In this "Last time they met" series, we're going to look at the current National Basketball Association playoff matchups and review the last time these two teams met in the playoffs. This particular game is symptomatic of Westbrook's issue as an MVP candidate. Oklahoma City has managed to muddle its way to the sixth seed in the West. The following night in Los Angeles, the Rockets were again without Nene, plus guards Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams and center Clint Capela.

Much of this praise does stem from the fact that due to Durant's departure, much, if not all of the load was heaped onto the shoulders of Westbrook who's decision to extend his time with the Thunder made him the unparalleled hero of Oklahoma City and the person in whom they looked to continue the success that the team had been garnering the past five years. The Thunder only won the first meeting, 105-103, on November 16 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The Rockets led, 90-85, after three periods, but OKC outscored then 20-13 in the fourth. Although Westbrook appears to have the trophy locked up, you could make a good argument that Leonard should jump Harden and finish No. 2 in the voting.

Those final points had special meaning for Pierce, who spent most of his career with the Boston Celtics.

"He's been unbelievable the way he's played, the way he's led", Donovan said.

As a team, the Spurs are really good this season.

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Role players? Jamal Crawford scored 19 off the bench, top wing defender Luc Mbah a Moute added a season-high 15.

Houston capitalized with 29 points off 19 OKC turnovers. Yes, Russell is averaging a triple-double which is nearly unprecedented, but Harden is right there with him. If we simply raised Harden's shot attempts to the amount Westbrook puts up and assumed no drop in efficiency, he would be averaging almost 38 points per game.

Andrew Wiggins missed a three-pointer on the buzzer for Minnesota.

If the Rockets surpass the Thunder, they could face the Spurs or Clippers. The game was tied at 116-116 with 1:49 to go.

Westbrook's driving bank shot with 52 seconds left didn't go in. Westbrook needs 24.9 field goal attempts to get to 32.8 points per game.

Memphis' big two, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, will go head-to head with Pau Gasol and Lamarcus Aldridge of the Spurs. Should the distance between LeBron and the MVP award really be based on two fewer assists and two fewer rebounds even though he is shooting well over 10 percentage points better than Westbrook?

Applying that rate to the 10 missing second place votes where Westbrook is listed first produces 9 second place votes for Harden or an additional 63 points for The Beard.

The NBA Most Valuable Player won't be announced until June 26 in a new ceremony held by the league so we won't know if it will be Russell Westbrook or James Harden (or both?) for a couple of months but one thing we do know is that Westbrook just had one of the most remarkable seasons in NBA history, regardless of whether or not he takes home that hardware.