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Why the NBA MVP race is closer than ever

SportsNBAWhy the NBA MVP race is closer than ever
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Exactly One Month Ago, ESPN Released Its Second Of Three Straw Polls Tracking the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Race for the 2022-23 season, and had a very clear result: denver nuggets Center Nikola Jokic as the heavy favorite to claim his third straight award.

Las Vegas told a different story on Thursday, as philadelphia 76ers Center joel embied has joined Jokic as a MVP Co-Favourite after finishing second in each of the last two seasons.

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What happened?

Most notably, Denver has lost four straight games: home loss Chicago Bulls And Brooklyn Nets and road damage San Antonio Spurs And this toronto raptorsTo whom he allowed 49 points in the first quarter on Tuesday night.

Jokic remains a dominant force individually and remains on pace to become the first center in NBA history to average a triple-double (24.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, 10.0 assists) for a season.

But Denver is 5-5 with the No. 24 defense since the All-Star break, which coach Michael Malone said could all be attributed to the sidelines after locking up the top seed in the Western Conference.

“Right now we’re just in chill mode, and you can’t be in chill mode with 13 games to go in the season.” Malone told reporters After Tuesday’s loss in Toronto. “We have to try to find a way to get our swagger back.”

While Denver is in “chill mode”, both the 76ers and milwaukee bucks — Led by two-time MVP giannis antetocampo – But something has happened.

The 76ers, who are in the midst of the toughest post-All-Star schedule in the NBA, have won seven of their last eight games since the calendar flipped to March, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index.

Embiid, who won Eastern Conference Player of the Month in December and January, is on his way to winning the award again. He is averaging 36.6 points on 60% shooting, 8.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.1 blocks this month. In this . included a 36-point, 18-rebound performance in the win against cleveland cavaliers Wednesday night, after which Embiid told ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth that he was excited about the way the other 76ers were playing.

“I’m just trying to win,” Embiid said. “Trying to get as many wins as we can. Just trying to get the group together and do our job like tonight. Down to 12 – we’ve had to struggle all season – coming back , and it’s good to see. So, my teammates, they’re making my job easier. They have a lot of faith in me, in them and the coaches, but we’re doing this as a team.”

On their part, Antetokounmpo and the Bucks have overcome Boston Celtics The former on the back of some truly impressive play by their All-NBA forward and on top of the NBA’s best record. Since January 1, Antetokounmpo is averaging 30.9 points, 12 rebounds and 5.9 assists.

While Antetokounmpo may be third among the odds in Las Vegas, he was second in February’s MVP straw poll and remains firmly in the three-player race for the league’s top regular-season individual honor.

“We’re good,” Antetokounmpo said after Tuesday’s win Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee’s 21st in his last 23 games. “We’re in a good place.”

So, too, is the MVP race, which has prepared for a lucrative sprint over the final three and a half weeks of the regular season. To make things even more interesting, next weekend there will be a three-day stretch of MVP-contestant showdowns in Denver, with Milwaukee coming up on March 25 before Jokic and Embiid face off in a nationally televised game on March 27. Will be in front. (Philadelphia will visit Milwaukee on April 2 in the final regular-season matchup between the Bucks and 76ers.)

Back in January, Embiid dominated individual matchups Against Jokic, scored 47 points in Philadelphia’s win. Last season, the 76ers hosted the Nuggets and Bucks in March and lost both games, which gives some reasons in the City of Brotherly Love that Embiid fell short of Jokic for the award.

Embiid will get a chance to write a different story this year – as will his two closest competitors. With three weeks to go, there is everything to play for in what turns out to be a completely open race.

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