Harden plays down MVP talk after latest triple; Cavs beaten by Jazz

Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives past Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) during the first quarter at Toyota Center on Tuesday night. (USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 11 January 2017
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Harden plays down MVP talk after latest triple; Cavs beaten by Jazz

LOS ANGELES: Houston star James Harden played down talk of being this season’s NBA MVP after his latest high-scoring triple-double on Tuesday as the Cleveland Cavaliers stumbled to defeat against Utah.
Harden, one of several players excelling in a high-scoring season across the league, finished with 40 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists as Houston improved to 31-9 with a 121-114 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
The Rockets talisman came to Houston’s rescue after Charlotte staged a dramatic fourth quarter fightback to take a shock lead.
Houston appeared to be cruising to victory after Corey Brewer’s three-pointer gave them a 108-90 lead with around eight minutes left.
But Charlotte responded with a 21-2 rally which featured four consecutive three-pointers as the Hornets edged into a 111-110 advantage with just over two minutes to go.
Harden steadied the ship however with an assist for Ryan Anderson’s three-pointer before adding two layups to settle Houston’s nerves.
Harden’s late intervention to secure the game capped another performance likely to ensure he remains firmly in the conversation for NBA MVP.
The 27-year-old however said he is not thinking about personal glory as he spearheads Houston’s drive toward the postseason.
“As long as I play the right way and be unselfish and we win games, all of that is going to come,” Harden said of MVP speculation.
“I don’t really put too much into that or think about it too much. If it happens it happens. The most important thing is winning.”
In Salt Lake City, LeBron James scored a game-high 29 points it was not enough to prevent the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers slipping to defeat against the Jazz, who improved 24-16 with the win.
Cleveland, which fell to 28-9, was undone by a potent all-round scoring display from Utah led by Gordon Hayward with 29 points and Rodney Hood (18 points). No fewer than six Jazz players finished with double figures on the night.
While Cleveland struggled, the Golden State Warriors marched on in their home game against the Miami Heat, winning 107-95.
Kevin Durant top-scored for the Warriors with 28 points while Steph Curry had a relatively quiet night with 24 points.
The win stretched Golden State’s lead at the top of the Western Conference standings at 33-6, with San Antonio second on 30-8.
The Spurs meanwhile fell 109-107 against the Milwaukee Bucks, Michael Beasley top-scoring for the visitors with 28 points.
In Toronto, DeMar DeRozan poured on 41 points as the Raptors snapped their two-game losing streak with a 114-106 victory over the Boston Celtics.
DeRozan grabbed 13 rebounds and made eight of nine shots from the foul line to help the Raptors improve to 25-13 at the Air Canada Center.
Toronto’s win came courtesy of a fourth quarter scoring spree which saw them go on a 19-4 run that swung the game decisively in their favor.
It was the Celtics’ first defeat in five games and saw them fall to 23-15.
DeRozan’s masterclass was backed by a stalwart display from center Jonas Valanciunas, who finished with 23 rebounds and 18 points.
Toronto coach Dwane Casey paid tribute to Los Angeles-born DeRozan’s virtuoso display.
“He’s a tough kid, he did not grow up in Compton for nothing,” Casey said.
“He’s a tough kid. More than anything else, the 41 points is nice, but 13 rebounds, the 11 defensive rebounds when we needed it...
“DeMar came in and got some big rebounds, tough rebounds, so that was impressive. That was more of a sign of grit and grind as much as the 41 points.”


LeBron’s last-second shot gives Cavs 98-95 win in Game 5

James pushes the Cavaliers within one victory of advancing in the Eastern Conference playoffs. (Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 26 April 2018
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LeBron’s last-second shot gives Cavs 98-95 win in Game 5

  • James' 3-pointer buzzer beater puts Cavaliers within one victory of advancing in the Eastern Conference playoffs
  • James finished with 44 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists.

CLEVELAND: LeBron James hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, a crowning moment for another brilliant performance, to give Cleveland a 98-95 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night in Game 5, putting the Cavaliers within one victory of advancing in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Moments after blocking Victor Oladipo’s possible go-ahead driving layup, James caught the inbounds pass, took two dribbles and dropped the winner over Thaddeus Young.
As Cleveland’s sellout crowd exploded, James hugged rookie teammate Cedi Osman before jumping on the scorer’s table to celebrate another of those moments that will define his career.
James finished with 44 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and went 15 of 15 from the line.
Kyle Korver added 19 points and Cleveland’s much-maligned defense tightened just in time as the Cavaliers seized their first lead in the first-round series after being down 1-0 and 2-1.
Cleveland can close out Indiana with a win Friday night in Indianapolis.
Domantas Sabonis scored 22 points, and Young had 16 for the Pacers, who battled back to tie it 95-all on Sabonis’ 15-foot jumper with 33 seconds left. Indiana, which held Cleveland without a field goal for more than seven minutes during their fourth-quarter rally forced James into a turnover and had a chance to re-take the lead.
Oladipo, who shot just 2 of 15, drove the left side and was at the rim when James swooped in for a block on a play reminiscent of his Game 7 block on Andre Iguodala in the 2016 NBA Finals.
Oladipo’s shooting woes continued. He’s only 12 of 50 from the field in the last three games. He scored 32 in the Pacers’ Game 1 win, but the Cavs have been double-teaming him ever since.
The third quarter has been a major problem for Cleveland all season. The Cavs had tried everything to try and shake things up after halftime, even doing layup lines at the break in Game 4 like a high school squad.
Turns out, all it took was some defensive intensity.
Down by seven at half, the Cavs swarmed the Pacers in the third quarter, forcing five turnovers in the first six minutes and holding Indiana to one field goal over the first 6:52 while opening with a 19-3 run.
Cleveland outscored Indiana 32-17 in the third, when the Pacers shot just 5 for 16 (31 percent) and committed seven turnovers.
The Cavs were again without starting point guard George Hill, who missed his second straight game with back spasms.
DWYANE’S WORLD
James had enough to worry about with the Pacers that he didn’t want to discuss close friend Dwyane Wade’s future.
Miami’s star is mulling retirement after the Heat were eliminated Tuesday in Philadelphia. James spent four years playing in Miami with Wade, who began this season with the Cavs before being traded.
James said that following his last game against Wade he told him, “’If it’s like our last time going against each other, then it’s been everything and more.” James wants to wait for Wade to make his decision and will then “give a more in-depth analysis of his career if he decides to hang ‘em up.”
TIP-INS:
Pacers: Following Lance Stephenson’s aggressive, wrestling-like takedown of Jeff Green in the waning moments of Game 4, coach Nate McMillan said he reminded the fiery forward to be careful. “The officials are going to be watching that, Lance knows that and there are some times where I think they (the Cavs) are taking advantage.” ... Dropped to 2-12 in their last 14 games in Cleveland. ... James’ triple-double in Game 4 was the sixth against Indiana in the playoffs. James has done it to the Pacers three times.
Cavaliers: With his 21st 40-point game in the playoff, James tied the logo — Jerry West — for the second-most all-time. Michael Jordan scored at least 40 in 38 postseason games. .... Hill’s back has improved in the past few days, but he didn’t look close to playing while sitting stiffly in his locker-room chair before the game. ... Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown sat courtside.
UP NEXT
Game 6 is Friday night at Indianapolis.