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The highest 5 this week within the 2018-19 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder:
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1. James Harden, Houston Rockets
Harden has scored 30+ factors in opposition to every staff this season.
Final week: No. 2
Season stats: 36.1 factors, 7.7 assists, 6.5 rebounds, 2.2 steals
Harden and the Rockets host the surging Spurs tonight (eight ET, NBA League Cross) in an essential recreation for playoff positioning for each groups. The Rockets have an opportunity to chase down the No. Three seed, if they will end robust. If Harden retains enjoying the best way he has, that shouldn’t be an issue. He’s been a nightmare for the Spurs, averaging 35.zero factors on 52 % taking pictures in opposition to them this season. The Rockets can’t afford to squander any extra of Harden’s monster common season efforts the best way they did Wednesday’s 57-point outing in a loss in Memphis. The one profit for the Rockets is Harden’s relentless grind. Whereas “load administration” is a phrase you hear usually this time of 12 months related to star gamers headed for the playoffs, it’s merely not part of Harden’s vocabulary. He doesn’t imagine in holding something again and mentioned the Rockets have an excessive amount of to play for to ease up now. So count on loads of fireworks from Harden down the stretch of the season.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Can Giannis be the longer term face of the NBA?
Final week: No. 1
Season stats: 27.5 factors, 12.7 rebounds, 6.zero assists, 1.four steals, 1.Three blocks
The harm hits simply carry on coming for the Greek Freak and the Bucks. First it was Malcolm Brogdon (foot), who’s out for six to eight weeks. And now Nikola Mirotic (finger), who may miss weeks, although Mike Budenholzer disputed the reviews that he could possibly be out as many as 4 weeks. If Antetokounmpo hadn’t staked the Bucks to such a roust cushion within the standings, there may be trigger for concern in Milwaukee down this remaining stretch of the season. As a substitute of panic, there ought to be a way of understanding that these bumps and bruises are part of any NBA season and the rationale you use at a excessive degree from the highest of the roster on down is to climate instances like this. Antetokounmpo has to fret about ensuring his personal physique is refreshed and recharged for what’s to come back. He’s nursing a sprained proper ankle of his personal that has price him the Bucks’ previous to video games. The absence of 5 rotation gamers will check any staff, even one which has carried out on the ridiculously excessive degree the Bucks have all season. Antetokounmpo must crank it again up if he needs to complete on prime of this record whereas additionally ensuring the Bucks maintain their spot atop the standings.
Three. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Curry was definitely scorching from deep in opposition to the Wolves.
Final week: No. four
Season stats: 27.eight factors, 5.Three assists, 5.Three rebounds, 1.four steals
The clearest signal that Curry’s working at that really galactic degree that solely he and a choose few others within the league can, is that he’s impacting video games positively no matter if he’s having an incredible taking pictures evening or not. So profound is Curry’s influence on what the Warriors do, he alters the dynamics for each groups simply by being on the court docket and a risk to mild it up offensively. Now it definitely helps when he goes off the best way he did Tuesday in opposition to Minnesota, when he scored 36 factors and drained eight of his 14 photographs from deep as he and fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson led the best way. However he can management the motion in different methods to, as he did Thursday evening together with his 15 factors, seven assists and 4 rebounds in a house win over the Indiana Pacers. Discovering the appropriate steadiness hasn’t been a lot of a problem for Curry, even with all the our bodies going out and in of Steve Kerr’s enjoying rotation this season. The truth that Curry doesn’t should push it each single evening bodes properly for the Warriors’ long-term prospects as properly. They know what is required from the two-time Kia MVP within the coming weeks and months. Even higher is that Curry is aware of it as properly.
four. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Embiid was ‘unstoppable’ in opposition to the Celtics.
Final week:No. eight
Season stats: 27.5 factors, 13.eight rebounds, Three.5 assists, 1.9 blocks
Maybe Embiid is true. When wholesome, he would possibly very properly be probably the most “unstoppable participant within the league.” Take a look at his efficiency this season when wholesome sufficient to be on the ground. There isn’t a bodily match for the Sixers’ huge man, who performs everywhere in the ground on each ends on the highest degree. The load administration break he took out of All-Star Weekend (sore knee) was a much-needed break for a participant nonetheless attempting to place collectively a full season of motion. However the best way he’s performed since returning has been jaw-dropping. The Sixers have gained six straight, together with assertion wins over Boston and Milwaukee of their final two video games. Embiid asserted hid dominance in each contests. He wore the Celtics out Wednesday evening with 37 factors, 22 rebounds, 4 assists and a block. He was simply nearly as good in Sunday’s win in Milwaukee, going for 40, 15, six and a block. So the subsequent time Embiid shouts about being probably the most unstoppable participant within the recreation, he may be proper. He’s definitely on the appropriate path to residing as much as all the hype, self-generated and in any other case.
5. Paul George, Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder
Regardless of a stable recreation in opposition to the Warmth, George has struggled currently.
Final week: No. Three
Season stats: 28.2 factors eight.2 rebounds, four.2 assists, 2.2 steals
With the Thunder reeling proper now, losers of 4 straight video games, George and Russell Westbrook would be the guys who’ve to offer the options. The schedule does them no favors tonight, as they journey to Toronto to tackle a Raptors staff (7:30 ET, NBA TV) that has gained two straight and stay scorching on the path of the Milwaukee Bucks for the highest spot within the Japanese Convention standings. George’s particular person recreation hasn’t been proof against the Thunder’s latest struggles, by the best way. He’s taking pictures simply 38.2 % from the ground in his final 10 video games, 32.9 % from past the Three-point line. The issues people have had concerning the Thunder all season are effervescent again as much as the floor now simply weeks earlier than the playoffs start. Are they extra than simply their dynamic duo? And if not, can they actually be something greater than a short-timer within the playoffs working solely off of the gasoline George and Westbrook present? A tricky highway win in Toronto may go a great distance in calming down a few of these issues, not less than for a day or two.
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The Subsequent 5
6. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
7. Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
eight. Damian Lillard, Portland Path Blazers
9. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors
10. Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
And 5 extra: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz; D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets; Karl-Anthony Cities; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder
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Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You’ll be able to e-mail him right here, discover his archive right here and comply with him on Twitter.
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