The calendar flips to 2023 in a couple of days, yet the deadlock on the top of the Kia Race to MVP ladder is still stacked up.
What is the best way to start the new year?
“The history of the game is written by the players, and it’s written again tonight,” Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said Tuesday night after watching superstar Luka Doncic. wow world With the best individual performance we’ve seen so far this season.
Look, these guys aren’t dropping their history pens anytime soon. Fireworks await in 2023. Especially when you consider that since Christmas we’ve already seen 10 different 40-point games. So, it’s important to note that no matter where your favorite hopper sits now – high or low – in this week’s Kia race to the MVP ladder, it’s still relatively early in the game, which means everyone still has a chance. Fight to hold on to that Michael Jordan trophy once it’s all said and done.
Doncic is testament to this feeling. We all know the numbers from Tuesday’s 126-121 Dallas win over the New York Knicks. The Slovenian sensation achieved an unprecedented stat streak in the NBA (60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists).
But ignore the flashy numbers and just skim what was revealed during the last 33.9 seconds of regulation and overtime to see how Doncic got back into the top five of this week’s edition of Kia Race to the MVP Ladder.
Nine points down with 33.9 points left in regulation, the Mavericks embarked on a 10-3 run and trailed by three when Doncic walked to the free throw line with 4.2 seconds left. The point guard hit the first free throw to cut the deficit to two, then deliberately fouled the next. Miraculously, Doncic came down with a loose ball that he missed during a mad scramble, quickly turning it over again as he fell to the ground for a Bucket hook game With one second left in regulation.
Doncic carried the Mavericks home from there, getting seven of the team’s 11 points in the extra period.
In addition to breaking Dirk Nowitzki’s franchise mark for points in a game, Doncic tied James Harden’s record (set January 30, 2018) for the highest triple-double in NBA history while setting a new career high for rebounds in scoring. Seventh trio of the season.
Prior to Doncic’s historic and heroic night, NBA teams owned a record of 0-13,884 over the past 20 seasons when trailing by at least nine points with 35 seconds or less remaining.
“This kid doesn’t quit,” Kidd said.
No one else on this list, now led by two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, has calmly held the Denver Nuggets to a tie with New Orleans for the first time in the Western Conference. Doncic scores a third-place finish in the Kia Race to MVP Ladder, while Boston’s Jayson Tatum moves up a hole to second.
Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo round out the top five.
But let’s keep it at 100: At this point, you can present a solid MVP status to every player ranked in the top five, maybe even lower.
And now, the top five places in Kia’s 2022-23 race to MVP ladder:
1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Last week’s ranking: Number 2
Season stats: 25.7 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 9.4 apg
Get his “Joker”. The fourth game of 40 points, and the second in his last three games as Denver’s five-game winning streak ended Wednesday night in Sacramento in the second game of a straight set. Played by Don Jamal Murray, Bruce Brown, Aaron Gordon and Jeff Green, the Nuggets fell behind by a 19-point lead that evaporated, leading the team to struggle for the first time in the season when they shot better than 57% from the floor. . In 31 games, Jokic has led Denver to 21 of his 22 wins, scoring 24 double-doubles and seven triple-doubles to keep the Nuggets tied with the New Orleans Pelicans for first place in the West after Thursday’s slate of games.
2. Jason Tatum, Boston Celtics
Last week’s ranking: Number 3
Season stats: 31.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.0 apg
Boston won 4-3 in their final seven-game home run, which included four straight wins capped by Tatum and Jaylen Brown each scoring 29 points in Thursday’s victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. Tatum’s career best-of-six-game career ending with 30 or more points ended Thursday, but the 24-year-old managed to pass Antoine Walker for the second-most three-pointers in Boston franchise history (940). Tatum The last six matches He was a sight to behold, as he played a key role in keeping the Celtics at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Boston is off to a four-game road trip starting Sunday in Denver.
3. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Season stats: 33.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 8.9 apg
Doncic dropped 50 and 60 points respectively in two of his previous three performances before leading the league. Eighth triple double (35 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists) in Thursday’s 129-114 win over the Houston Rockets, which gave Dallas its fifth straight win. Over this span, Doncic averaged 40.4 points per game (on 58% shooting) along with 11.8 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game. For much of the season, the Mavericks hovered around . 500, which undercut Doncic’s other numbers somewhat. But the team is now 20-16 and fifth in the Western Conference largely on the strength of Doncic’s consistent dominance. The main concern is whether Doncic can keep up with the production.
4. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Last week’s ranking: No. 4
Season stats: 29.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 5.4 apg
Durant should sneak into the top three soon. He helped the hottest NBA team win its 10th straight Wednesday, which goes down as the league’s longest winning streak at any point this season. This latest win came due to Durant and Kyrie Irving collecting 54 points in a victory over the Atlanta Hawks. Durant staggered off a 26 double-double points, dropping 16 rebounds (his highest total since December 2016). Did we mention that Durant also contributed to a pair of blocks? Yes, No. 7 is tied for seventh in the NBA in total blocks (52). So, it’s safe to say that he gets it done on both ends of the floor as captain of a team that has won 14 of the last 15 competitions.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Last week’s ranking: No. 1
Season stats: 31.7 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 5.2 apg
Antetokounmpo had his second 40-20-5 performance on Wednesday, tying a season-high in points (45) while scoring a season-high in rebounds (22). The performance was the 28-year-old’s sixth 40-point lead of the season. But Milwaukee appears to be heading in the wrong direction, after losing four straight, including Wednesday’s 119-113 defeat by the struggling Chicago Bulls. It should be noted that Antetokounmpo played that game – which the Bucks led by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter – without Jrue Holiday (non-Covid disease) and Khris Middleton (left knee pain). Having lost 42 or more points in three of their last five games, Antetokounmpo likely won’t stay in the top five for long – provided Milwaukee gets back to its winning ways.
The following five:
6. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (Last week’s ranking: T-7)
7. Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans (Last week’s ranking: No. 6)
8. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies (Last week’s ranking: No. 5)
9. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics (Last week’s ranking: Unranked)
10. Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers (Last week’s ranking: No. 9)
And five more (in alphabetical order): Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns; Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors; Shay Gilgos Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder; Julius Randle, New York Knicks; Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings.
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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can email him hereFind his archive here and follow him Twitter.
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