After scoring 42 points in a hostile Portland crowd Tuesday night, Houston Rockets superstar James Harden left no doubt he’s the MVP frontrunner .
The Rockets defeated the Trail Blazers, 115-111, ending Portland’s 13-game winning streak and improving their league-leading record to 57-14 — with Harden as the conductor and finisher.
With the Trail Blazers making a run in the final minute, Harden silenced their run and crowd with two tough 3-pointers which he made look so easy as he often does.
The first was a step-back 3 on Portland center Jusuf Nurkic from the left wing. Harden knew Nurkic stood no chance in guarding him and the prolific scorer danced on the big man before hitting his patented step-back jumper.
The second dagger Harden hit was even more impressive.
Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and forward Al-Farouq Aminu double-teamed Harden on the right wing with time running out on the shot clock. Harden didn’t panic and hit an absurd step-back-to-the-right 3 right in front of Portland’s bench to extend the Rockets’ lead to 113-104 with 1:55 left.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, when asked after the game how impressed he was of Harden’s performance, didn’t hold back in his praise.
“That’s the best offensive player I’ve ever seen,” D’Antoni said of Harden. “They’re running guys to him and he just steps a little further back and makes a 3. The way he can pass and see the floor, get layups, floaters, maybe a lob, maybe out to the corner, he has so many weapons and now he’s shooting those step-back 3’s. It’s impossible to guard him. It’s impossible. No mortal can do that. He does it. Hey, do it. It’s amazing.”
Harden has been the MVP runner-up two years in a row, but barring something crazy, he should win it this year.