Kevin Durant debuted within the prime three of the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder final week, solely to tumble again down a number of rungs by way of no fault of his personal on this newest version.
Durant suffered a sprained proper MCL on Sunday in a win at Miami that’s anticipated to sideline him for a number of weeks. But the Brooklyn Nets lapped up the chance Thursday to face the league’s prime crew of their first recreation since Dec. 10 with out the 2014 MVP.
“Our mentality is whoever is subsequent on the schedule,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn mentioned, shortly earlier than tipoff of his crew’s 109-98 loss to the Boston Celtics. “It simply so occurs it is the No. 1 crew within the league proper now. I feel it places us in an ideal psychological state that we all know if we’re not ready, we’ll get embarrassed.
“We know if we do not have most effort, we’ll get embarrassed. We know if we do not play more durable than the dude that is subsequent to you, you will get embarrassed. So, nice entrance into the Kevin-less video games that we’ll play.”
Brooklyn hopes to exit them quickly, although, if final season serves as any indicator of what would possibly come subsequent.
Durant sprained his left MCL close to mid-January of final season and didn’t return till March. 3 after Brooklyn misplaced 11 in a row and 16 of 21 contests with the celebrity sidelined. The crew stays hopeful that Durant’s newest setback is not as vital as final season’s knee damage.
Still, the 34-year-old’s anticipated prolonged absence opens the door within the prime 5 for an additional participant who had been restricted considerably this season by accidents.
Philadelphia 76ers heart Joel Embiid debuts within the fifth spot of this week’s Kia Race to the MVP Ladder, after making his thirtieth look of the season and dropping 30 factors Thursday in a 133-114 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Of all of the candidates ranked among the many present prime 5, Embiid has participated within the fewest video games, whereas each different participant besides Giannis Antetokounmpo (35 video games) competed in no less than 38 of their crew’s contests.
Even Durant showcased rock-solid sturdiness previous to Sunday’s damage by taking part in in 39 of Brooklyn’s first 40 video games.
As for Embiid, the Sixers massive man returned in typical dominating style Tuesday in a win over the Detroit Pistons, racking up his twentieth 30-point efficiency of the season, whereas including 11 rebounds and two blocks after lacking the earlier three contests because of a sore left foot.
“I’m alright, higher than anticipated,” Embiid mentioned of the sore foot after the sport, including he is nonetheless obtained to “handle it.”
36 PTS | 11 REB | 2 BLK
massive efficiency from the large fella. vote @JoelEmbiid for NBA All-🌟: https://t.co/dy1hdG6pzF
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) January 11, 2023
Before Embiid’s newest three-game hiatus, he had performed in 16 consecutive contests coming off a four-game absence in late November because of a foot damage. It’s additionally price noting that Embiid was slowed earlier within the season by an offseason bout with plantar fasciitis that is not associated to his most up-to-date foot situation.
So, whereas Embiid makes his long-awaited return to the highest 5, reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokic maintains his agency grip on No. 1 atop the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder. Additionally, Luka Doncic rises to No. 2 on the energy of a gutsy efficiency Thursday night time in a double-overtime highway win towards the Lakers.
Jayson Tatum falls to No. 3 regardless of his crew’s five-game successful streak, and Giannis Antetokounmpo inches up one slot to fourth.
And now, the highest 5 within the 2022-23 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder:
1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Last week’s rating: No. 1
Season stats: 24.9 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 9.7 apg
Part of what makes it enjoyable to observe Jokic is that you just will not see any stat padding from the 27-year-old. He simply does no matter is required to win on any given night time, like Monday, when he grew to become the first participant in NBA historical past with a 15-plus help triple-double with no missed area targets. Two nights later, Jokic completed with 21 factors, 18 rebounds and 9 assists in a win over Phoenix and did not even play within the fourth quarter as Denver walked away with its eleventh victory within the final 13 outings, dropping 120-plus factors for the eighth consecutive contest at house. The Nuggets are tied with Memphis for the convention lead and the NBA’s finest house document (18-3).
2. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Last week’s rating: No. 3
Season stats: 34.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 8.8 apg
Doncic racked up 27 factors over the primary three quarters to complete with a 30-point triple-double in regulation, together with stepback 3-pointers from 27 toes out to power each overtimes in Thursday’s 119-115 victory towards the Los Angeles Lakers. The Mavericks’ celebrity completed with 35 factors, 14 rebounds and 13 assists over a gritty 53 minutes, saying after the sport, “I feel it was very bodily.” No doubt. The efficiency marked Doncic’s tenth triple-double and pushed him up a slot on the MVP Ladder as Dallas snapped a two-game skid. The Mavericks began the brand new yr on a seven-game successful streak however have since misplaced three of the final 5.
3. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Last week’s rating: No. 2
Season stats: 30.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 4.2 apg
Dribbling previous 4 defenders for a bucket is certainly powerful, however most significantly, the 24-year-old continues to assist Boston stack up victories. The Celtics have now received 5 in a row and 9 of their final 11 with Tatum averaging 29.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg and 5.6 apg throughout the streak. “Everybody has to sacrifice to be on an ideal crew,” Tatum mentioned after Thursday’s win over Brooklyn. “No particular person stat or accolade can measure up to being on a successful crew that is having enjoyable. There’s nothing higher than that.” Dominance over the Nets cannot be dangerous, both, contemplating Boston has received its final 5 regular-season clashes with Brooklyn after sweeping the membership final season within the first spherical of the playoffs.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Last week’s rating: No. 5
Season stats: 31.0 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 5.3 apg
Antetokounmpo sat out of Milwaukee’s 108-102 loss at Miami on Thursday because of left knee soreness, as a complete of 11 gamers from each groups missed for numerous causes. Against the Heat, the Bucks have been taking part in the second night time of a back-to-back set on their present weeklong highway journey. The night time earlier than, the two-time MVP scored a season-low seven factors in a 114-105 victory at Atlanta however led the crew as a facilitator with 18 rebounds and 10 assists. Since the final Kia Race to the MVP Ladder dropped, Antetokounmpo has put collectively two single-digit scoring nights sandwiched round a 22-point, 10-rebound efficiency in a win over the Knicks, after reeling off a mixed 128 factors within the earlier three contests.
5. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Last week’s rating: No. 6
Season stats: 33.5 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 4.4 apg
We referenced Embiid’s 30-point efficiency in Thursday’s loss to Oklahoma City, nevertheless it’s price noting the 76ers heart performed simply 10 minutes within the first half because of foul bother, but nonetheless managed to place up a swollen stat line that included this nasty block. Embiid performed a serious position in shrinking a 16-point deficit to begin the fourth quarter to 6 factors with 4:31 left to play, scoring 12 of his 20 second-half factors within the ultimate body alone on 3-for-3 from the sphere and 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. Two days in the past, the 28-year-old dropped 36 factors with 11 boards in almost 24 minutes of motion towards the Pistons.
The Next Five:
6. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets (Last week’s rating: No. 3)
7. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies (Last week’s rating: tied for No. 7)
8. Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers (Last week’s rating: tied for No. 7)
9. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics (Last week’s rating: No. 9)
10. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder (Last week’s rating: unranked)
And 5 extra (listed alphabetically): Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors; James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers; Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz; Julius Randle, New York Knicks; Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings.
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Michael C. Wright is a senior author for NBA.com. You can e-mail him right herediscover his archive right here and observe him on Twitter.
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