Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic leads race for MVP title, but watch Steph CurryFriday, April 23, 2021
BY MARK ARCHER
The Denver Nuggets lost Jamal Murray to a season-ending torn ACL on April 12 and, while they should easily get to the postseason, a repeat of the impressive play-off run they had last year is not expected. Possibly the only silver lining in this situation is the fact that more scoring opportunities will open for JustBet's Most Valuable Player (MVP) frontrunner, Nikola Jokic.
In the first three games played by the Nuggets since losing Murray, Jokic had a triple-double in a win over the Miami Heat, in the second, he put up 29 points/16 rebounds/7 assists in a 128-99 beatdown of the Houston Rockets then on Monday, April 19, he put up a mammoth 47 points/15 rebounds/8 assists performance in a double-overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Jokic is already leading the MVP-race and his recent performances have certainly made that argument more convincing. He is nearly averaging a triple-double this season (notable for a centre) - 26.4 points, 11.1 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game. His free throw numbers are impressive (85.4 per cent) and he is a genuine threat from three-point territory (41.9 per cent).
The Nuggets have never had a National Basketball Association (NBA) MVP winner — Spencer Haywood won an American Basketball Association (ABA) MVP with the Denver Rockets back in 1970 – and no one could have anticipated Jokic's explosion, especially for a centre playing for a non-marquee franchise.
However, while Jokic's season may result in him hoisting the MVP award, the recent streak by two-time NBA MVP Wardell Stephen “Steph” Curry II have raised the eyebrows of many who thought his best years were gone and expected him to be comparably pedestrian through the rest of his career.
It is unimaginable that a player widely thought of as the greatest shooter in NBA history could elevate his game to an even higher level at 33 years young. On Monday, April 19, Curry extended an amazing scoring streak with 49 points to lead the Golden State Warriors to a 107-96 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Curry scored at least 30 points in 11 consecutive games to bag the NBA record of the longest such streak in league history by a player 33 years or older — surpassing Kobe Bryant, who had 10 straight 30-point games in 2012.
Curry shot 14-of-28 from the field against the East-leading 76ers on Monday, 10-of-17 from 3-point range and 11-of-12 on free throws for his eighth 40-point game of the season and fourth in the last five games. He now leads the NBA in scoring at 31.4 points per game (a career high) and boasts 21 career games with at least 10 three-pointers, including six this season and four in the last five games. No one else in league history has more than three except for Warriors' teammate Klay Thompson who is second with five career games with ten-plus made three-pointers.
Curry's numbers have been staggering since the end of March, even surpassing the great Wilt Chamberlain as the all-time points leader in Warriors' history on April 12 with a 53-point performance in a 116-107 win over the Nuggets. He has made seventy-two three-pointers in the last 10 games (most ever in a 10-game stretch) and with 47 and 49 points in his last two games, he is the first player 33 or older to score 45-plus in back-to-back games since Michael Jordan in 2001.
Curry's monster April has brought him into the MVP conversation, and he is certainly making it interesting, but Jokic's season-long dominance probably gives him the edge. Reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has missed some games which has taken him out of the equation (though JustBet still has him at third-favourite) and JustBet second-favourite, Joel Embiid has had a good year, but he has also been limited by injuries. LeBron James was in the mix before a high-ankle sprain brought that to a screeching halt and James Harden's recent hamstring injury has (more than likely) ended his contention.
In a year where so many other top MVP candidates have missed (or are missing) significant playing time, Jokic playing every game (so far) could be the deciding factor in him copping the award.
Key matchups to look for this weekend: Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets, with Kevin Durant sidelined (again), invite the resurging Boston Celtics into Barclays Center while the Warriors will take on the Nuggets in a rematch of the April 12 showdown where Jamal Murray was injured.
Tomorrow, the Milwaukee Bucks welcome MVP-candidate Joel Embiid and the 76ers into Fiserv Forum for a titanic clash while Sunday will see the Nets at home against the Phoenix Suns who currently hold second place in the West and presently on an impressive run.
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Brooklyn Nets 3.25
Los Angeles Lakers 4.20
Los Angeles Clippers 6.20
Utah Jazz 8.20
Milwaukee Bucks 8.40
Philadelphia 76ers 12.00
Phoenix Suns 17.00
Denver Nuggets 24.00
Dallas Mavericks 35.00
Miami Heat 35.00
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