NBA: MVP race heats up late in the season

Harden and Giannis battle for the most valuable player award in the thick of a playoff race

John Laforest
Staff Writer

With the season coming to a close in the NBA, two of the biggest superstars in the NBA faced off in the NBA Tuesday night, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden, both which are candidates for the MVP trophy award this season.

The Milwaukee Bucks beat the Houston Rockets 108-94 Tuesday night with both MVP candidates competing against each other with each team attempting to climb up the playoff ladder.

The Bucks held Harden to 23 points on 9-of-26 shooting, only the fourth time this season he finished with more field goal attempts than points.  He also had 10 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks in the loss. 

The Bucks showed a unique way to guard the reigning MVP. The Bucks would often hang all the way on his left side, taking away the chance for Harden to go back to his left until he was at the rim. If he got all the way to the rim, he was often met by the nearly seven feet Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo also had a mediocre game by his extremely high standards, recording 19 points, 14 rebounds and four assists.

Harden always seems to be in involved in these historically close MVP races. He has lost both other occasions losing to Golden State point guard Steph Curry in 2014-15 where many believed he should have been the winner. 

He also lost to Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook in 2016-17 in the year Westbrook averaged the first NBA triple double since Oscar Robertson played.

Harden’s MVP case this season might be his best. He went on a historic run literally putting the entire squad on his back while fellow star Chris Paul was sidelined with injury. Harden became second all-time in consecutive 30-point games with 32. He also propelled the Rockets from second to last in the conference all the way to the third seed where the teams sits now. 

Antetokounmpo is no slouch himself. He is having his best statically season as a pro. The Bucks finished the previous season as the seventh best team in the conference and were bounced in the first round by the Celtics. He is averaging 27 points per game and nearly 13 boards, which is high class. Giannis has led the Bucks to the best record in the east, where they have been for most of the season. Giannis had something to prove coming into the year, that he could indeed take that next step. He delivered for his team in a way that nobody saw coming. Consistency speaks to Giannis’s season.  He has been the been the best player in the eastern conference throughout much of the year.

Like other seasons where Harden was in a close MVP battle there will be controversy. Both men are truly deserving of the award for propelling their team to new heights, that many didn’t expect.

Header photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

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