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The highest 5 this week within the 2018-19 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder:
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1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo has turn out to be a dominant drive within the paint this season.
Final week: Tied for No. 1
Season stats: 27.Zero factors, 12.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.four steals, 1.Three blocks
Nobody has been capable of disrupt Antetokounmpo’s movement this season, it doesn’t matter what ways they’ve employed to stymie Milwaukee’s anchor and celebrity. His capability to counter mainly each staff’s defensive look bodes properly for his effectiveness within the playoffs. The notion that daring him to shoot and stopping him from attacking the rim would someway drive him to desert his greatest strengths ignored the truth that his “Greek Freak” nickname is a most acceptable moniker. The Miami Warmth will get a reminder tonight after they host the Bucks at American Airways Enviornment (Eight ET, NBA TV). Sunday’s dance with the Philadelphia 76ers (Three:30 ET, ABC), nevertheless, provides one of many few possibilities when Antetokounmpo may not be the freakiest bodily specimen on the ground. The Sixers’ Joel Embiid made an emphatic return from some publish All-Star break load administration to drill the Indiana Pacers for 33 factors and 12 rebounds final Sunday, then dropped 17 factors, 19 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks on the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday. Antetokounmpo and Embiid will face one another for simply the fourth time of their careers.
2. James Harden, Houston Rockets
James Harden was largely stored underneath wraps on Wednesday vs. the Warriors.
Final week: Tied for No. 1
Season stats: 36.Zero factors, 7.5 assists, 6.5 rebounds, 2.2 steals
Harden didn’t appear notably burdened after the Rockets noticed their nine-game win streak come to an finish Wednesday in opposition to the Golden State Warriors. Harden is aware of, as all of us do, that nothing that occurs throughout the season has any influence on what may occur ought to the groups meet once more come playoff time. In profitable the season sequence Three-1, Harden and Co. have already made their level the place the Warriors are involved. The Rockets are the one staff able to pushing them to the restrict, as they did within the 2018 Western Convention finals. Harden is aware of that the Rockets want a wholesome roster with the postseason on the horizon. Shedding Chris Paul to a hamstring damage for the ultimate two video games of final season’s sequence vs. the Warriors proved essential. The extra essential enterprise now for Harden and the Rockets is constant their climb within the Western Convention standings.
Three. Paul George, Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder
Paul George was strong on Thursday evening, however OKC couldn’t beat Indiana.
Final week: No. Three
Season stats: 28.2 factors Eight.1 rebounds, four.1 assists, 2.2 steals
George and the Thunder are battling for a coveted top-three spot within the Western Convention playoff chase. Who knew that George’s absence with a sore shoulder would influence his staff the best way it did? However nearly as good as Russell Westbrook has been this season — and he’s been improbable at instances — not having George within the combine these three video games wobbled the Thunder. They’ve misplaced seven of their 12 video games for the reason that All-Star break, together with a spirit-crunching highway loss to the Indiana Pacers final evening. In simply his second go to to Indiana since he was traded to the Thunder two years in the past, George lit his former staff up for 36 factors, six rebounds, 5 assists and two steals as they raced out to a 19-point lead. However it wasn’t sufficient to outlive the Pacers’ rally and a Wesley Matthews tip-in with 1.Eight seconds to play. It was one other a kind of nights when George and Westbrook did their factor, however the remainder of the roster’s offensive manufacturing wasn’t as much as the duty. Saturday’s showdown with the Warriors (Eight:30 p.m. ET, ABC), nevertheless, provides an opportunity for redemption and could be simply the spark the Thunder have to crank issues up because the playoff positioning continues.
four. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry nails a shot in Wednesday’s win in opposition to the Rockets.
Final week: No. four
Season stats: 27.9 factors, 5.Three assists, 5.2 rebounds, 1.Three steals
Curry has the posh enjoying on a staff so star-studded pedestrian efficiency — by his lofty requirements, anyway — in a showdown recreation doesn’t rattle anybody. He shot a tough Eight-for-20 (Three-for-9 from deep) in Wednesday’s showdown with the Rockets, a recreation that Kevin Durant (ankle) missed. However when Klay Thompson (30 factors) and DeMarcus Cousins (27 factors, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals) go nuclear, Curry will get the sort of cowl he typically offers others. One other assertion recreation awaits, although, in Saturday’s recreation in Oklahoma Metropolis (Eight:30 ET, ABC). That may function a hungry Thunder staff, an anxious house crowd looking for one other shot on the defending champs and the always-ready Russell Westbrook. The Warriors are 1-Zero on their present highway journey that makes stops in San Antonio (Monday) and Minnesota (Tuesday) earlier than they return to house for 3 straight video games. Seeing Curry and the Warriors eyeball the upcoming schedule is one thing new, given the best way they’ve dominated the West the previous 5 seasons. However they’re locked in a race for the highest seed and have needed to modify accordingly.
5. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic was the hero in an exciting win Thursday evening vs. Dallas.
Final week: No. 5
Season stats: 20.2 factors, 10.Eight rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.four steals
Jokic’s late-game heroics helped the Nuggets survive Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks Thursday evening … and likewise helped salvage what may have been a tough week, too. Final Saturday, Denver bought smashed within the face by Golden State, the staff it’s chasing for West’s prime spot, however has gone 2-Zero since then. Whereas Jokic hasn’t scored greater than 18 factors in 4 straight video games, he is made up for it together with his playmaking/facilitating throughout that very same stretch. However the Nuggets want extra from their star huge man if they’re severe about passing the Warriors, who have been greater than up for final Saturday’s problem. Coach Mike Malone has accomplished a splendid job massaging his rotation, conserving Denver locked in and centered on the duties at hand. Jokic’s continually stellar effort this season has been maybe the most important think about that success, which could land him an All-NBA first staff spot within the months to return.
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