Not too often do your hear an NBA player say a performance of 26 points, nine boards and seven assists in a double-digit win against Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook “a bad night.”
But that’s exactly what 76ers center Joel Embiid said to Ernie, Chuck, Kenny and Shaq on Inside the NBA after Philly beat the Lakers 105-87 Thursday night.
After missing 11 games earlier in the year, the big man and has played 15 straight contests and is shooting up the MVP ladder after being the runner-up last season.
His 50-burger in just 27 minutes against the Orlando Magic last week put him in elite Sixers territory, becoming the third player with multiple 50-point games with the franchise alongside Wilt Chamberlain and Allen Iverson. He also had 12 rebounds against Orlando.
Then, two days later against the Clippers, he had 40 and 13. Two days after that at the Spurs, he had 38 and 12.
That’s the fourth time in his career he’s put up 30 points and 10 boards in three consecutive games. Only Chamberlain and Charles Barkley also had four 30-10 three-game streaks for the 76ers.
The now-five-time All-Star starter is once again neck and neck in the MVP race with the other superstar center in the Association.
Last year’s MVP Nikola Jokic is also having another career year for the Denver Nuggets, this time without Jamal Murray, who is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last season, and a consistently healthy Michael Porter Jr., who’s only played nine games this season after getting back surgery in December.
Despite having his two best playmakers, he’s averaging 7.6 assists, 3.3 higher than Embiid. He’s also averaging 3.1 more rebounds than Embiid – 13.8 per game; that’s second highest in the NBA to Rudy Gobert. Embiid’s 10.7 is tenth.
But Embiid has the lead in points. He’s third in the league with 28.9, trailing only Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Jokic is in seventh with 26.2.
But right behind Joel at fourth in scoring is Giannis with 28.6. Antetokounmpo is making a case for his third MVP award, as he’s averaging more points than Jokic and more boards and assists than Embiid. He and Jokic are the only players in the NBA averaging at least 25, 10 and five in each category.
In terms of the playoff picture, the Sixers are in the best position at 29-19 and the five seed in the East. But the Bucks are right behind them in the standings at 30-20.
Denver, in an arguably weaker conference, is 26-21 and is the six seed.
It’s looking like the top two MVP finalists will remain the same in Jokic and Embiid, and Giannis will take the third spot from Steph Curry. But the order of the finishers remains up for debate.
But Curry is still keeping himself in the conversation as well. Although he’s statistically in the middle of the worst shooting slump of his career, being under 30% from three since the start of the new calendar year, he’s got Golden State back in the Finals conversation and second place in the West at 36-13.
Can Embiid stay healthy for the rest of the season? Would Murray and Porter Jr. coming back impact Jokic’s numbers? Will Giannis’s stats be enough in comparison to two much better shooters? Will Jokic’s defense be enough for two much better defenders? Is Curry’s slump enough to remove him from the conversation?
This year’s MVP race should come down to the wire. Antetokounmpo remains the best odds on DraftKings Sportsbook at +300, with Curry behind him at +310, then Embiid at +325, and finally Jokic at +375.
Long story short, according to DraftKings, there are still four legitimate candidates for the MVP award.
Are you taking those odds for any of those four to win the MVP this season? Or are you taking anyone else with better odds? Let us know!