Friday Bolts – 1.6.17

Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post: “It may have just been one regular season game in BoltsLogoNewearly January — though a wildly entertaining one — but it also was a symbolic one in terms of looking at the MVP race. Despite all of Westbrook’s exploits, Harden is the leader for the award — something that was reinforced by the Post’s utterly unscientific straw poll of a combination of 90 coaches, scouts, executives and media members from across the NBA universe the past two days. While Harden emerged well ahead in the poll, virtually everyone who submitted a vote said they had a tough time deciding between two or more of the four leading candidates: Harden, Westbrook, Durant and LeBron James. Harden finished the voting with 61 out of 90 votes, followed by Westbrook (18), James (six) and Durant (five).”

Erik Horne: “At the end, Westbrook and Harden were face-to-face with the game on the line, the Thunder having battled back from a 14-point deficit to start the fourth quarter. At 116-116, the teams traded misses for three possessions before the Rockets switched defenders and the two were staring each other down. Westbrook’s right angle 3-pointer was long off the back rim, and the Rockets corralled the rebound with 3.8 seconds left for their final possession. With 0.7 seconds left but Enes Kanter’s missed his contested attempt off a cross-court Victor Oladipo inbounds pass. Westbrook added eight rebounds and five assists. Harden had a game-high 12 assists, but was 6-of-16 shooting, hounded by Andre Roberson for the third straight meeting between the teams. But Harden’s pass served as punctuation on the matchup of MVP front-runners.”

Zach Lowe of ESPN.com: “The issue could rise up again in the playoffs, when coaches care more about every possession. There are a few potential hack victims lingering, including Ian Mahinmi (if he ever gets healthy) and Andre Roberson, who has forgotten how to shoot free throws in Oklahoma City. But give the NBA credit: so far, so good.”

My story from last night’s game.

ESPN Stats: “Westbrook’s 34 field goal attempts are tied for third-most in a game this season. Westbrook holds the top two spots with 44 on Oct. 28 against the Suns and 35 on Nov. 30 against the Wizards. The volume of shots did allow him to reach 40 points through three quarters for the first time in his career. Westbrook’s eight assist opportunities tied for his second-fewest in a game. When Westbrook was ejected from the game against the Grizzlies on Dec. 29, he had no assist opportunities.”

All-Star returns are out and Russ is third in the West among guards.

Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com: “In the last six minutes of the game, after Houston’s double-digit lead fell to three, the Rockets went 3-for-13 from the field and missed their final five shots. However, the closing plays favored the Rockets — especially when Harden drew a double-team from Steven Adams and Andre Roberson with the score tied. Harden made the smart basketball play and sent a bounce pass to Nene Hilario, who was fouled. Nene, who played his best game of the season with 18 points and was plus-12 in the box score, made two foul shots to push the Rockets’ lead to two with 0.7 seconds to play.”