James Harden’s tenuous grip on this year’s NBA MVP trophy might be slipping thanks to what Russell Westbrook has been doing recently.

On Tuesday night against the Utah Jazz, Westbrook put up 43 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a 109-106 Thunder win. It was Westbrook’s second straight 40-point triple-double, and his fourth straight overall.

Westbrook was a big part of the Thunder’s early 3-point barrage, hitting four of the team’s franchise-record 12 consecutive 3s to start the game. He cooled off from there, but still finished 6-of-9 from deep, 13-of-28 from the field and 11-of-12 from the free-throw line. Westbrook also took over in crunch time, scoring 12 points in the final two minutes to lead OKC to victory.

It was Westbrook’s 30th triple-double on the season, as he chases Oscar Robertson’s single-season record of 41. Westbrook is now just one triple-double shy of tying Wilt Chamberlain for the second-most ever in an NBA season.

Westbrook’s most recent tear is certainly making the MVP race interesting. He’s now averaging 31 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.3 assists per game. If he can finish the season averaging a triple-double he would be the only player besides Robertson to accomplish the feat.

The knock on Westbrook’s MVP candidacy is that his chief competition, Harden, is leading his team to victory after victory while Westbrook’s team continues to be mediocre. But the Thunder have won four in a row and seven of their last 10, and they currently sit just two games behind the Utah Jazz for the fourth spot in the Western Conference.

The addition of Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott at the trade deadline gave OKC two more weapons, and it’s conceivable that Westbrook could lead the Thunder to that fourth spot, right behind the Houston Rockets.

If Westbrook gets the Thunder to the four seed with that roster and averages a triple-double, it would be pretty much impossible to say he’s not the Most Valuable Player in the league.


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