Chris Paul: James Harden's Loss to Giannis Antetokounmpo Shouldn't Affect MVPMarch 27, 2019
Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul told reporters on Tuesday that teammate James Harden's MVP candidacy shouldn't be affected by the team's 108-94 defeat to MVP front-runner Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.
"James went on a historic run. Know what I mean?" Paul said. "Obviously I'm biased about the MVP and whoever or whatnot, but those of you that decide it on head-to-head games with a few games left in the season, good luck with that. Happened to me in '08."
The run in question is Harden's 30-plus point streak that lasted 32 games. The Beard scored 23 points on 9-of-26 shooting Tuesday.
However, Antetokounmpo didn't play particularly well either. He did have 19 points and 14 boards but also committed five turnovers and got into some early foul trouble.
If anything, the team's records may have the biggest impact on this year's race. The 56-19 Bucks are cruising to the league's top mark. The Rockets are a respectable 47-28 but will have trouble finishing higher than third in the Western Conference standings.
Otherwise, Antetokounmpo is one of the NBA's best defensive players and in fact leads the Association in defensive win shares, per Basketball Reference.
The Westgate SuperBook (h/t ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon) lists Antetokounmpo having -250 odds ($250 bet to win $100) to win the MVP, making him a strong favorite over the field. It would have taken a lot more than one single game for Harden to overcome that deficit, even if he boasts a strong case himself thanks in part to his No. 1 overall VORP (value over replacement player) and offensive win share marks.
Ultimately, this could end up being a closely contested race like the one Paul referenced in 2008, when ex-Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant held off Paul (then of the New Orleans Hornets) for the MVP.
One single game may have had a far greater impact, however. As MacMahon noted, on April 11, 2008, the Lakers beat the Hornets 107-104 behind Bryant's 29 points, 10 boards and eight assists. Paul had 17 dimes but shot just 4-of-13 from the field. Los Angeles used that win to help jump over the Hornets in the West standings for first overall.
Circumstances are different this year, however, and Antetokounmpo likely has the MVP sewn up regardless of Tuesday's outcome.