The race for the NBA MVP: stars getting rest, Curry injury could keep him from winning
The NBA's biggest stars have just about three weeks to make their case for the NBA's MVP. Steph Curry injury may have just taken him out of the race.
The NBA regular season will be over before you know it as the Play-In Tournament closes in on us. The five favorites for the KIA MVP award have just three weeks to make their closing arguments for the regular season’s best player.
So here is our weekly update of how each of the candidates did over the last week as of Tuesday afternoon, March 22.
Coming into the week there race for the scoring title is air sealed. The Sixers center and Giannis Antetokounmpo trail LeBron James' 29.9 ppg by a tenth of a point. It seems like every time Embiid steps on the floor his liable to go for 30 points and he’s done so in four of his last five games.
Embiid may have sat out for Monday’s game against the Eastern Conference leading Miami Heat, but Philly’s role players stepped up in a spotlight game without their big man or James Harden.
He started the week with a monster game against the Cavaliers, going for 35 and 17, missing just six of his 19 field goals. He followed that up with an all around performance against he Mavs, posting 32, 8 rebs, 4 assists, and 5 steals in Philly’s 10 point win over Dallas. In the former Kansas Jayhawks last game he did struggle a bit from the field going just 6-20 while being held to 21 points, but did snatch down 13 rebounds in the 93-88 loss to the Toronto Raptors.
Season stats: 29.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
The Nuggets lost two of their three games since last Tuesday, but it would be terribly unfair to played any of the blame on the broad shoulders of their Serbian big man. Jokic and Embiid seem to be in a nightly battle for top center in the NBA, much like Larry and Magic were tangled in an eternal battle in the late 80’s.
While Jokic’s scoring average isn’t as dazzling you have to take into account everything else he does on the court. His vision, his basketball IQ and his ability to control the game from the paint sets him apart from anyone else in the league.
Jokic had 29 points on 10-14 shooting, to go along with 13 rebounds, and 8 assists in Wednesday’s 18 point win over the Wizards, but since then Denver has lost their last two.
The Nuggets pushed the Cavs to overtime in Cleveland over the weekend as Jokic flirted with another triple-double, but his 32 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists weren’t enough to earn Denver the road win. Jokic, like Embiid went a little cold from the field in the Nuggets last game. The Serb netted 23 points, and 8 rebounds but was just 8-23 from the floor as Boston triumphed over Denver 124-104.
Season stats: 26.1 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 8 assists.
As the season carries to a close we are seeing coaches being more and more careful regulating how much of a work load they place on their star players backs. We saw it with Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid, and we saw it in the Bucks last game against the Timberwolves when Mike Budenholzer.
Giannis had a very light work load this week, after leading the Bucks to a six point road win over the Jazz last Monday with 30 points and 15 assists. Antetokounmpo had 36 and 10 rebounds in his only other game of the week. The Bucks beat the Kings by 11 as Giannis remains snug to LeBron for the scoring title.
The Bucks are level with the Sixers in a two way tie for second in the East, just 2.5 games back of the Miami Heat.
Season stats: 29.8 points, 11.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists.
Curry’s MVP chances took a big blow when Celtics guard Marcus Smart rolled over the ankle of the three time MVP.
Curry played just 14 minutes since last week’s 47 point performance in the win over the Washington Wizards. The Splash Brother limped off the floor in the second quarter and did not return as the Warriors went on to get wiped out by 22 by the Celtics.
Reports out of the Warriors camp is that Curry suffered no structural damage, but will have to wait to be reevaluated in a couple weeks time.
Season stats: 25.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.5 assists.
The Grizzlies look like the out-and-out favorite to finish behind the Phoenix Suns for the second seed in the Western Conference Playoffs after Steph Curry went down with his unfortunate ankle injury. If they are able to do so, the Grizz will have gone from having to play in the Play-In tournament last year, to awaiting a winner of the tournament this year.
It’s no secret the driving force behind Memphis’ success has been Ja Morant. Like many of the other coaches keeping one eye on the post season while resting their stars, Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins decided to give his young superstar some rest over the last week. Morant played in just one of the three games over the last week, and strangely enough it was the game that Memphis lost.
After sitting against the Pacers, Morant came back and dropped 29 points, going 11-23 fro the field against the Atlanta Hawks in a losing effort. He was then sat again for the Grizzlies game against the Rockets.
Season stats: 27.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 7.1 assists.
The Boston Celtic is making a late charge into the MVP race as he continues to slingshot his team up the Eastern Confernce standings.
Tatum has been on a tear over the last few weeks. In his last ten games he is averaging 34.4 points and has led the Celtics to 4th in the East, but like the Bucks and the Sixers sit just 2.5 games back of the top seeded Heat.
It may be difficult to attract some of the attention that has followed Embiid and company all season long, but if he continues at this pace and if the Celtics can finish at the top of the East come playoff time Tatum might steal this award late giving Boston their first MVP since Larry Bird won it in 1986.
Season stats: 27 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists.