NBA Double Dribbling: Hot Topics for the Homestretch

As the NBA enters the final stretch of the final twelve games of the regular season, there appear to be more unanswered questions than usual with the Western Conference wide open, with the top three in the East facing various generic challengers and the MVP debate happening in all sorts. of directions.

An every man for himself at the recent trade deadline shook up the competition, but in the few weeks since the all-star break, the equation is as murky as it was.

Injuries to the two biggest traded players – Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – muddied the waters although Phoenix managed to maintain their late-season surge while Dallas floundered with equally out-of-form Luka Doncic.

Burning questions for the home stretch

A racial cloud now hangs over the MVP race

Former Boston center Kendrick Perkins recently inflamed the debate over this year’s race by suggesting there was racial bias, citing former winners Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Nikola Jokic as he tries to win three rare consecutive awards.

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His theory was that because the majority of voters are white, they have an inherent bias.

Nikola Jokic fights with Joel Embiid. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Regardless of who now wins the award, there will be raised eyebrows no matter what after the storm of controversy that followed Perkins’ comments.

Jokic’s form has slipped slightly, as has his Denver Nuggets – losing four straight, opening the door for Philadelphia star Joel Embiid to claim his first MVP or Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo to trap his third.

All three would be deserving winners, their stats are all incredible, and there’s little difference in their teams’ win-loss record.

The mystical element of the narrative will likely decide the ultimate winner – if the 76ers climb to second place in the East and Embiid closes out the season strongly, he has a good chance of stealing it from Jokic.

Are the Warriors about to hit the go button?

Golden State has been mediocre all season. The defending champions have rarely been able to put their top five on the floor, with Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins in particular having spent long spells on the sidelines.

The Warriors are 36-34 and sixth in the West after a costly 134-126 loss to the fifth-place Clippers (37-33) in Los Angeles on Thursday, despite Curry even having 50 points.

They should automatically qualify for the playoffs and will likely face a potentially vulnerable opponent in Sacramento or Memphis, but they’re just as likely to go out in the first round as they go all the way depending on their Jeckyll and Hyde season.

Will the Nuggets bounce back from the crisis?

Denver is still highly unlikely to give up first place in the West, but after losing four straight games, alarm bells are starting to ring in the Mile High City.

They’ve fallen to the Bulls, Spurs, Nets and Raptors in this crisis – Chicago and Toronto are below 500, San Antonio has been tanked all season and Brooklyn is feisty but a shell of themselves after the trade deadline.

Denver’s depth is super thin and the ongoing problem of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter jnr not being able to provide reliable support for Jokic means they have plenty of questions about their title chances heading into the playoffs.

Lakers a mirage or a real deal?

Since dropping Russell Westbrook and nothing too important for a group of role players, the Lakers have fought their way into the playoffs, although they could have done without the 114-110 loss of Thursday against the lowly Rockets.

Anthony Davis, who was rested against Houston, stepped up while LeBron James nursed his foot injury and the King should potentially be back in a week or two, in time for a playoff push if LA is within striking distance.

They’re still 10th in the West at 34-36 but just two games behind the Warriors in sixth.

Is it finally time for the Suns to shine?

Just when it looked like Phoenix had everything in place to claim an elusive championship, Kevin Durant went ankle high taking a routine warm-up shot before the game.

Phoenix trails OK, going 5-5 in its last 10 games, and should have Durant back for the final week of the regular season to spend a few games getting more used to his new teammates ahead of the playoff push. playoffs.

They’re a half-game ahead of the unpredictable Clippers in the hunt for fourth, but if Durant is back, not having home-court advantage in the first round probably won’t matter much.

Are the Knicks pretenders or pretenders?

These aren’t legitimate title chances, but they can’t be dismissed. They’ve gone 7-3 in their last 10 outings, a record only bettered by Sacramento and the Bucks during that streak when most teams continue to run hot and cold in the upside league.

New York is 2.5 games behind Cleveland for fourth in the East and with 11 games left on their schedule, they’ll need to be near perfect to steal the Cavs’ home court.

Even if the bomb comes out in the first round, the rejuvenation of the team this year with Jalen Brunson setting the stage for Julius Randle, RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson to shine in their roles has been a success for the Knicks, especially during the third year of a Tom Thibiodeau stint is historically when fortunes begin to falter as his intense style wanes.

Who can stop Milwaukee?

Without stocking up on Village People, who can stop Milwaukee, no one can stop Milwaukee. Take the cold snow, tell the trees, don’t push, tell the wind, don’t blow, because it’s easier than knocking the Bucks down right now.

Antetokounmpo is having arguably his best season – a career high in points per game at 31.5 while bringing home 12 rebounds and 5.5 assists, and dominating on the defensive end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 and Jrue Holiday #21

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Late-season additions of Khris Middleton after his injury layoff and Joe Ingles as an extra critical-time playing option relieved Brook Lopez and Jrue Holiday, who is on the verge of his first all-NBA selection as perhaps the most effective all-around goaltender in the league.

They didn’t quite wrap up the league’s best record at 50-19 ahead of Boston (48-22) and the Celtics have beaten them two out of three times this season after sending them to the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year. .

So maybe it’s Boston that can stop Milwaukee, change the master plan, take the man’s hope…because it’s easier to do.

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