Nikola Jokic was named in the All-NBA first team ahead of Joel Embiid and alongside Jayson Tatum, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Devin Booker in Tuesday evening's announcement.

Jokic pipped fellow center Embiid for the NBA's 2021-22 MVP award earlier this month and the Serbian again got the nod in that position in the All-NBA first team, although the Philadelphia 76ers star was eligible as a forward but also missed out.

While Jokic and Embiid split votes, Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo was the only unanimous selection in the first team.

Antetokounmpo became the first player over the past 50 years to be a unanimous selection to the All-NBA first team in four straight seasons.

Tatum and Booker were both selected to the All-NBA first team for the first time.

Embiid led the selections for the second team, alongside DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Ja Morant.

LeBron James was named to the third team, with Pascal Siakam, Karl-Anthony Towns, Chris Paul and Trae Young.

Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd hailed Luka Doncic after his starring role in their Game 4 win over the Golden State Warriors having been named in the All-NBA first team earlier on Tuesday.

Doncic had a near triple-double with 30 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists as the Mavericks won 119-109 over the Warriors to avoid a clean sweep.

Earlier in the day, Doncic had been named alongside Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and Devin Booker in the All-NBA first team for the third time in his career.

"I don’t think anybody is surprised that he's first team but it's really cool," Kidd told reporters.

"It shows the talent level. The other four are pretty talented too. It shows where he's going, his growth."

Kidd was full of praise for Doncic, who also had two steals and two blocks in Game 4, playing a key role in the fourth quarter to ward off the Warriors' late charge.

"What he does for this team is incredible, not just points and assists, but being able to rebound the ball," Kidd said.

"At the end, he came up with a nice little blocked shot to pad his defensive stats. He's our leader. When he goes, we go. He loves that stage.

"Being first team with the other four, it's a great honour for him."

Doncic, 23, was delighted with the accolade, which comes for the third straight season, having joined the Mavs in 2018.

"It's a blessing," Doncic told reporters. "As a kid I only dreamed of being in the NBA, and now it's my third All-NBA team.

"It's a blessing. I'm really happy and thankful to everybody that made it happen."

Doncic was also hopeful about the Mavericks in the Conference Finals despite history being against his side, who trail the Warriors 3-1.

Tuesday's win was the Mavs' fourth in franchise history in a Game 4 when facing a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series, losing Game 5 on the previous three occasions. Golden State has led 10 playoff series 3-0 in the past, sweeping six and winning in five on four occasions.

"I still believe we can win," Doncic said when asked if he was relieved to avoid a sweep.

"Swept or not swept, in the end, if you lose, you lose. It doesn’t matter how many you win, but we have to go game by game. We're going to believe until the end."

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has said he is "extremely grateful" to work with Nikola Jokic after the Serbian was confirmed as the winner of the NBA's MVP award for the second successive season.

Malone, along with other representatives from the Nuggets, flew out to Sombor in Serbia to surprise Jokic at his stables with the award on Wednesday.

During the 2021-22 regular season, the center led the league in points/assists/rebounds per game with 48.7, which marked an improvement on his 2020-21 numbers, which saw him rack up 45.5 PAR per game.

Jokic becomes the 13th player in NBA history to win the MVP award in back-to-back years, following the likes of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and LeBron James.

Unfortunately for Denver, Jokic's regular-season form did not translate to success in the postseason for the Nuggets, who lost 4-1 to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.

However, the Nuggets wanted to celebrate the 27-year-old's achievement, and presented him with the MVP award in his home city, with Malone saying: “I don’t know what else you can say about Nikola at this point.

"He's consistently improved his game, he's consistently proven people wrong when they doubt him and he's consistently the best player on the floor night in and night out.

"I've said it many times before, I'm extremely grateful to coach Nikola Jokic and just as grateful for the bond that we've built off the court in our seven years together."

Jokic was originally drafted to the Nuggets with the 41st pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, famously doing so during a commercial break.

His MVP win last season made him the player with the lowest draft position to win the award, and the first center to do so since Shaquille O'Neal in 2000.

Joel Embiid insists he is "not mad" after missing out on the NBA's MVP award again to Nikola Jokic but continues to show contempt at the award's voting process.

The Philadelphia 76ers center was runner-up to Jokic last year and according to ESPN the Denver Nuggets' big man will edge him again for this season's gong.

Embiid enjoyed arguably a career-best season, with a league-high 30.6 points per game with 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists.

"I'm not mad," Embiid told reporters, when speaking after the 76ers' 120-85 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday.

"That's two years in a row I put myself in that position. It didn't happen. It is almost like, at this point, it is whatever. Whatever happens, happens.

"Last year, I campaigned about it. This year, I answered questions when I was asked, and in the next few years until I retire, it's almost like ... like I said, I wonder what else I have to do to win it, and to me, at this point, it's whatever.

"It's all about focusing, not that I wasn't focused on the bigger picture. It's really time to really put all my energy into the bigger picture, which is to win the whole thing."

Embiid's comments come with the 76ers on the brink of elimination after Tuesday's loss which leaves them 3-2 down in the Conference semi-finals to the Heat.

The 28-year-old Cameroonian added that there was no "right or wrong" answer for the MVP but continued to show derision towards the voting process, insisting he knew weeks ago he would not win.

"This is something that I knew weeks ago, even probably two weeks before the season ended, after those games against whether it was Denver and Milwaukee, and when [ESPN did its] straw poll or whatever. I just knew it wasn't gonna happen," Embiid said.

"Obviously, congrats to Nikola. He deserved it. He had an amazing season. There's no right or wrong. There was a lot of candidates.

"It could have gone either way. Giannis [Antetokounmpo], Devin Booker, being on the best team in the league, by far. I guess, every year is all about whatever you guys decide, whatever fits the narrative as far as who's gonna win."

Nikola Jokic has won the NBA MVP award for the second successive season, according to reports.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday reported Jokic will be officially announced as MVP later this week.

It follows a 2021-22 season in which the Denver Nuggets center led the league in points/assists/rebounds per game with 48.7.

That average marked an improvement on his 2020-21 numbers, which saw him rack up 45.5 PAR per game.

His reward for that increased production is to become the 13th player in NBA history to win the MVP award in back-to-back years.

Giannis Antetokounmpo achieved the feat in 2019-20, with Stephen Curry and LeBron James the two other active NBA players to go back-to-back.

Bill Russell was the first to win successive MVPs, heading a list that also features Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.

Tim Duncan won in 2001-02 and 2002-03 and Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash was named MVP for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.

Jokic's regular-season form did not translate to success in the postseason for the Nuggets, who lost 4-1 to Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.

 

Reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic is set to commit to the Denver Nuggets with a supermax extension, "if the offer is on the table".

Jokic, who could be named the league's best player for a second season running, saw his season ended on Wednesday with the Nuggets' 4-1 first-round playoff exit to the Golden State Warriors.

The center only has a single year remaining on his existing deal but appears open to extending his stay in Denver.

According to ESPN, Jokic is eligible for a five-year, $254million deal.

"I would like it, of course," he said after Game 5 against the Warriors. "But it's not something that I'm deciding.

"I think if the offer is on the table, of course I'm going to accept it, because I really like the organisation, I really like the people who work here.

"I'm in a really good relationship with everybody from owner to equipment manager."

Jokic described a second potential MVP win as "a great thing, of course" but added: "If I don't get it, I'm not going to die."

Individual recognition has not been the issue for the Serbian on the Nuggets, with the team instead falling short in the playoffs – albeit this year chiefly due to injury issues.

Jamal Murray missed the entire season following an ACL tear prior to the 2020-21 postseason, while Michael Porter Jr. was limited to nine games.

"We don't know what we can do because we were not healthy," Jokic said. "Do we have some talent? Yes. Can we do something? Probably."

Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone says Nikola Jokic deserves to win the Most Valuable Player award this season, despite the team's playoff elimination at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

The Nuggets' season ended following a 102-98 loss at Chase Center on Wednesday, handing the Warriors a 4-1 series victory.

Without the injured Jamal Murray, Jokic has had to take on a much heavier burden, and he finished Wednesday with 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting, 19 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks.

After the loss, Malone stood up for his All-Star big man and stated his case to retain the MVP award.

"Going into the game, his hamstring was a little tight," Malone said. "I'm sure he was fatigued mentally, physically and emotionally, but he fights through it.

"That guy is a warrior. I just don't understand the people that find a way to criticise Nikola Jokic. Is he perfect? No, I'm not saying he is.

"But the guy is the definition of a warrior. He's competitive, consistent, and he impacts the game in so many ways. Hell of a season, and hopefully he'll win the MVP again, because I think rightfully he deserves it."

It was always going to be a tough series against a Warriors side finding form heading into the playoffs, but the undermanned Nuggets managed to make it difficult.

Extending their season and taking out Game 4 when faced with a sweep, Malone's side held an eight-point lead after the third quarter in Wednesday night's game, but the Warriors simply found another gear.

How the Nuggets stayed competitive with the odds stacked against them provided some kind of solace for the 50-year-old coach.

"Incredibly proud, I really am," Malone said. "When you lose a series 4-1, it's hard to find that silver lining. We didn't win and that's what we came here for.

"As a head coach, I couldn't be more proud of a group that could have rolled over after the third game, fought at home to extend the series and put ourselves in a great position.

"No one gave us a chance to win the series, and there were a lot of people saying tonight was going to be a rout, that we were going to get blown out. That's not who we are."

It was a dominant showing by the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, closing out their series with a 116-100 win against the Chicago Bulls, taking the series 4-1.

The Bulls had their backs up against the wall, and their plight was made even tougher when star Zach LaVine and defensive ace Alex Caruso were ruled out due to health and safety protocols.

By the end of the first quarter, Milwaukee led 34-18, and they went on to also win the second and third quarters to hold a lead of at least 20 points throughou

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks, scoring 33 points on 11-of-15 shooting, also going 11-of-14 from the free throw line.

Jrue Holiday was solid in his point guard duties, dishing nine assists to go with his 10 points and five rebounds, while Bobby Portis was a force inside, scoring 14 points and snatching down 17 rebounds.

For the Bulls, DeMar DeRozan was disappointing in a must-win clash, finishing with just 10 points and seven assists, while only attempting 10 field goal attempts in 42 minutes.

Intriguing second-year forward Patrick Williams led Chicago in scoring with 23 points on nine-of-13 shooting, going four-of-seven from long range, while Nikola Vucevic had 19 points, 16 rebounds and six assists.

The Bucks will now take on the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, with Game 1 set to take place this weekend.

Warriors roll past Nuggets with new starting-five

The Golden State Warriors had to fight back against the Denver Nuggets, closing out the series 4-1 with a 102-98 win while sporting a new-look starting five.

Stephen Curry made his first start since he was eased back from a foot injury, joined by both Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson.

The Dubs left it late though, cutting away at an eight-point deficit from the last change, before a Gary Payton II triple gave them the eventual lead with seven minutes remaining

Golden State will now take on the winner between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Minnesota Timberwolves, where the Grizzlies lead 3-2.

 

The Denver Nuggets narrowly avoided a series sweep on Sunday, coming up big on both ends in the final seconds to beat the Golden State Warriors 126-121.

Down 17 points at one stage and nine to start the fourth quarter, the Warriors were able to claw their way level through Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined for 55 points for the game and on 22-of-43 shooting from the floor.

The Warriors could not seize the opportunity to lead with scores tied at 121 however, when Andrew Wiggins missed a tip-dunk off a Thompson miss, an open catch-and-shoot three in the corner.

A Monte Morris floater gave the Nuggets the lead with 33.5 seconds remaining, and Austin Rivers' steal from the consequent Otto Porter Jr. inbound effectively settled the result. Will Barton's corner three from a Nikola Jokic feed was punctuation mark.

Jokic was exceptional with Denver's season on the line, coming up with 37 points on 14-of-21 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists.

Pels level series against Suns

The New Orleans Pelicans have managed to level the series with the first-seeded Phoenix Suns, comfortably winning Game 4 118-103.

The combination of the Pels' defensive flexibility and length combined with the Suns' continued struggles in injured star Devin Booker's absence has made this a series.

While Deandre Ayton was able to provide a presence under the basket with 23 points and eight rebounds, Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges shot a combined six-of-19 from the floor.

Jonas Valanciunas came up with important buckets down the stretch on his way to 26 points and 15 rebounds.

Heat and Bucks take commanding leads in East

The Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks now have the chance to advance in the playoffs on their home floors, defeating the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls respectively. 

The Heat defeated the Hawks 110-86 to take a 3-1 series lead, with the latter held to just 15 points in the second quarter.

It was a particularly tough night for Trae Young after his game-winner in Game 3, taking only four shots in the second half and committing as many turnovers.

The Milwaukee Bucks also took a 3-1 series lead on Sunday, claiming a big 119-95 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Grayson Allen provided crucial minutes off the bench with 27 points off 10-of-12 shooting, including six-of-seven from beyond the arc, as well as three steals.

A remarkable fourth quarter from the Memphis Grizzlies was the catalyst in their 104-95 win on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves, going up 2-1 in the series.

In the first quarter, in front of their home fans, it appeared that it was going to be all Timberwolves early as they got off to a scorching start, with Patrick Beverley scoring eight of the game's first 12 points as the hosts went up 12-0.

Both Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr collected two personal fouls each in the opening period as the Grizzlies went into the second quarter trailing 39-21. A much-improved defensive effort held the Wolves to 12 points in the second term, though, cutting the margin back to 51-44 at the half.

Memphis were unable to keep that momentum coming out of the break as Minnesota started the third frame on a 28-10 run, pulling away to a 79-54 lead.

But trailing 83-62 with 1:05 to play in the third quarter, the Grizzlies started their run. They would score 21 consecutive points to tie the game at 83-83 as Desmond Bane, Brandon Clarke and Tyus Jones lifted the visitors.

As Karl-Anthony Towns struggled down the stretch – finishing with just eight points and five blocks with five fouls – the Grizzlies were firing on all cylinders, winning the last quarter 37-12 to open their lead up to 10 points for a relatively comfortable final few minutes.

Morant was a disappointing five-of-18 from the field for his 16 points and seven turnovers, but he added 10 rebounds and 10 assists as he stayed involved in other areas of the game. 

He was supported beautifully by Bane who top-scored with 26 points, hitting seven-of-15 from long range, while Clarke had 20 points and eight rebounds on just nine field goal attempts. Jones posted a line of 11 points, five rebounds and four assists off the bench, hitting all three of his threes.

Game 4 will remain in Minnesota before heading back to Memphis for Game 5.

Brunson and the bench boys

Dallas Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson carried his side to a 126-118 win against the Utah Jazz, with superstar teammate Luka Doncic watching from the sidelines.

Brunson scored a career-high 41 points in his last outing, before dropping 31 on 12-of-22 shooting in hostile territory on Thursday.

He was supported by a terrific shooting performance by the Mavericks reserves, as Maxi Kleber, Davis Bertans and Josh Green combined to shoot 11-of-17 from three-point range. As a team, Dallas shot 42.9 per cent from beyond the arc (18-of-42).

The Jazz shot 56 per cent from the field in the loss, but were minus 12 in the nine minutes with Donovan Mitchell sitting on the bench. Mitchell finished with 32 points (10-of-21 shooting) with six assists.

Rudy Gobert did not miss a field goal or free throw for 15 points and seven rebounds, but the Jazz struggled to get stops while he and Mike Conley were on the floor, as both players finished with a plus/minus of minus 16.

The win is the Mavericks' first in Utah since 2016.

Warriors shoot their way to 3-0 lead

In a game where both teams shot the lights out, the Golden State Warriors showed once again that it is not wise to get into a shoot-out with the team from the Bay Area, beating the Denver Nuggets 118-113.

The Warriors shot 55 per cent from the field and 45 per cent from long range (18-40) as their offense was clicking for most of the night. 

Denver shot the ball well in their own right, finishing 50 per cent from the field and 44 per cent from deep (11-of-26), and even looked to take control in the third quarter, winning the term 30-18 and taking a 89-87 lead into the final period.

But that third quarter would be the Warriors' only slip-up, scoring at least 31 points in the other three as the Splash Brothers – now with a third member – were unstoppable.

Stephen Curry came off the bench once again to score 27 points (nine-of-17 shooting, three-of-nine from deep), Klay Thompson looked back to his best with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting, hitting six of his 13 threes, while Jordan Poole continues to show he is no flash in the pan, scoring 27 points on nine-of-13 shooting.

For Denver, MVP favourite Nikola Jokic tried his heart out, finishing with 37 points (14-of-22 shooting) with 18 rebounds, five assists and three steals, and he was plus three in his 38 minutes, meaning the Nuggets were outscored by eight in his 10 minutes on the bench.

The win moves the Warriors to a 3-0 lead, with Game 4 to be played in Denver, before returning home for Game 5.

Jalen Brunson scored a career-high 41 points to carry the Dallas Mavericks to a 110-104 home victory, tying their series against the Utah Jazz at 1-1.

With the Mavs missing Luka Doncic for the second straight game due to injury, Brunson scored 15 of their first 18 points as the two sides went into quarter-time tied at 24. It stayed neck-and-neck until a 7-0 run late in the second quarter gave Utah a seven-point lead at the long break.

Dallas' Maxi Kleber hit one three-pointer in each of the first two quarters, but caught fire in the second half, going three-for-four from long range in the third term and repeating that effort in the fourth quarter to finish with 25 points off the bench.

Kleber's biggest shots were back-to-back bombs to turn a 98-96 deficit into a 102-98 lead, which Dallas never relinquished, on the way to finishing eight-of-11 from three, while not attempting a single a two-point field goal.

Brunson finished an incredible 15-of-25 from the field and six-of-10 from three, and added eight rebounds, five assists and two turnovers.

For Utah, Donovan Mitchell top-scored with 34 points on 13-of-30 shooting, while Rudy Gobert grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked two shots.

The series heads to Utah next for Game 3 and Game 4.

 

76ers too much for Toronto

Despite strong first and fourth quarters for the Toronto Raptors, they went down 112-97 against the Philadelphia 76ers to fall down 2-0 in the series.

In an up-tempo first quarter where both sides were making shots, Fred VanVleet was the early standout, hitting four of his seven three-point attempts to head into quarter time with 14 points and his Raptors leading 33-32.

For the next two quarters, it would be all Philadelphia, out-scoring the Raptors 63-38 over the second and third frames to take full command of the contest, peaking at a 95-66 lead with 30 seconds remaining in the third.

The 76ers' intensity dropped in the last as the game was essentially won, which allowed Toronto to pull the margin back to 11 points with 6:30 to play, but that would be as close as things got as a Tyrese Maxey three and a string of free throws kept Philly's lead in the teens as the clock winded down.

Joel Embiid was the best player on the floor, scoring 31 points on nine-of-16 shooting (12-of-14 free throws) with 11 rebounds, while Maxey was unstoppable for the second game in a row, scoring an efficient 23 points on eight-of-11 shooting and adding nine rebounds with eight assists.

Tobias Harris also earned a mention with his 20 points and 10 rebounds, while O.G. Anunoby was the lone bright spot for the Raptors, scoring 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting and flashing some intriguing ability as a primary scoring option.

Toronto will host Game 3 and Game 4 of the series, with unvaccinated players unable to enter Canada, which means Matisse Thybulle will not travel with the 76ers.

 

Poole party for the Splash Brothers

After scoring a team-high 30 points in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets, Jordan Poole was at it again in the Golden State Warriors' 126-106 win in Game 2.

While he did not top-score this time around, Poole was arguably the Warriors' best player through the first three quarters, racking up 27 of his 29 points up to three-quarter time as his side led 101-81 heading into the last.

Poole has emerged as the third 'Splash Brother' this postseason, with the original two also enjoying big games on Monday, as Stephen Curry scored a game-high 34 points in 23 minutes off the bench, while Klay Thompson chipped in with 21.

For Denver, MVP favourite Nikola Jokic was ejected in the fourth quarter for his second technical foul after accumulating 26 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes.

Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo have been announced as the finalists for the 2021-22 NBA MVP award, as was widely expected.

Denver Nuggets center Jokic is the favourite to win the award for a second consecutive year, again beating out Philadelphia 76ers big man Embiid.

Antetokounmpo took the two awards before that and was the NBA Finals MVP last season as he led the Milwaukee Bucks to the title.

Embiid led the league in scoring this year with 30.6 points per game, ahead of Antetokounmpo (29.9), who was second among players to play 58 games or more.

Jokic (27.1) was sixth in those standings and eighth for assists (7.9) but second in rebounds (13.8).

Although neither Devin Booker nor Chris Paul did enough to be considered for the MVP, the league-leading Phoenix Suns got plenty of love in other NBA Awards categories.

Monty Williams is up for Coach of the Year, against the Memphis Grizzlies' Taylor Jenkins and the Miami Heat's Erik Spoelstra.

Mikal Bridges is a Defensive Player of the Year finalist, facing the Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart along with three-time winner Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.

For Sixth Man of the Year, Cam Johnson faces competition from the Heat's Tyler Herro and the Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love.

Herro is the favourite, though, having scored 20.7 points despite making only 10 starts. Ricky Pierce in 1989-90 (23.0) was the last player to average more points while playing at least 50 games but starting no more than 10.

There is also recognition for the much-improved Cavaliers, with two of Love's team-mates up for awards.

Darius Garland averaged 21.7 points, up from 17.4 a year earlier, and is under consideration for Most Improved Player. His year-on-year improvement ranks 16th among players with 58 or more games.

Dejounte Murray (15.7 to 21.1) of the San Antonio Spurs ranks ninth, while the Grizzlies' Ja Morant only played in 57 games but improved from 19.1 to 27.4, which would have put him third.

Garland's Cavaliers team-mate Evan Mobley is a Rookie of the Year finalist, in competition the Detroit Pistons' first overall pick Cade Cunningham and the Toronto Raptors' Scottie Barnes.

Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant believes Joel Embiid should win this season's NBA MVP award.

The Philadelphia 76ers center and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic are the clear favourites for this season's award, with Giannis Antetokounmpo in the running, too.

Durant, who was the MVP in 2014, pointed to Embiid's scoring when he said he deserved the nod marginally ahead of Denver Nuggets big man Jokic.

"If I had to choose, I would go Joel Embiid," Durant told reporters.

"He led the league in scoring, double-doubles, his team won 50 games this year. His numbers were incredible. It's a great year.

"But you can just close your eyes and just pick any one of the guys out of the top six or seven, and you can have a good MVP this year.

"That shows how great our league is right now and how talented our league is from top to bottom, but I would go with Embiid if I had to choose."

Embiid finished the regular season with the scoring title, averaging 30.6 points per game, along with 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists. He also had 46 double-doubles.

Jokic was second in the NBA across the regular season for rebounds, averaging 13.8. The Serbian center also contributed 27.1 points and 7.9 assists, with 66 double-doubles and 19 triple-doubles – two league highs.

The 76ers finished with a 51-31 record to claim fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Nuggets were sixth in the West with a 48-34 record.

Durant was also critical of MVP voting, claiming a player's narrative or story too often fed into the results.

"It's unfortunate," Durant said. "There's a lot of players that have been controlled by their narrative.

"Some of it has been because of the player, some of it just has been because of the perception of other people about that player.

"In Joel's case, more people just like Giannis and Jokic. It's as simple as that. They just prefer them more than Embiid's personality or his story, I guess."

Embiid was the runner-up for last season's MVP behind Jokic, with Stephen Curry in third.

MVP favorite Nikola Jokic became the first player in NBA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season in the Denver Nuggets' 122-109 home win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday, 

He had 35 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and five steals in his game-winning performance.

For the season, Jokic is eighth in the league in points per game (27.0), second in rebounds per game (13.7) and eighth in assists (7.9).

Out of players who average at least 20 minutes per appearance, Jokic is 12th in usage (30.9), which measures the percentage of his team's possessions that end with him shooting or turning the ball over while he is on the court.

Of the league's top 100 players in usage rate, none are shooting better than Jokic's 66.1 True Shooting percentage, which weights three-point shots, two-point shots and free throws to produce a single number.

Only 12 players have a better True Shooting percentage than Jokic, and of those players, Montrezl Harrell has the highest usage, at a role-player number of 19.8.

The Denver big man is also the only non-guard in the top 15 in assist percentage, coming in at sixth (38.8) and trailing only Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Chris Paul, James Harden and Dejounte Murray.

As Nuggets teammate Bones Hyland put it: "Dude is really great at basketball."

Hyland was not the only Nuggets representative to shower Jokic with praise when talking with the media after their win, with coach Michael Malone highlighting that he believes the MVP race has been decided.

"The MVP isn't even a competition," he said.

"There's other great players. I'm not saying they're not great players. But what Nikola Jokic has done this year – with this team – everything we've had to go through, is just incredible.

"He was good last year, and he's even better this year."

Even Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins was at a loss for how to deal with the threat he poses.

"We threw a lot at him,'' he said. "He's the MVP for a reason. He's nearly impossible to guard. 

"He's going to beat you from inside, outside, playmaking. He played at a really high level tonight.''

Meanwhile, Jokic said he was content to let his play do the talking, saying "if that's enough [to win MVP], it's enough… if not, you cannot control that.''

Anthony Davis pondered "what could have been" this season after Sunday's 129-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets, and admitted he feels like "the whole world wants to see" the Los Angeles Lakers lose.

The Lakers' loss means they are now two games behind the San Antonio Spurs in the race for the last Western Conference Play-In Tournament spot, with just four games to play.

Favourite to win his second consecutive MVP award, Nikola Jokic starred once again for the Nuggets, scoring 38 points on 15-of-22 shooting, with 18 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks.

Davis also played well, with 28 points (11-of-25 shooting), nine rebounds, eight assists, two steals and three blocks, but when speaking to post-game media he wondered what his team could have accomplished if healthier.

"We never [got a chance to get continuity] all year," he said.

"I think us three – being me, LeBron [James] and Russ [Westbrook] – have played… 21 games together?

"We didn't expect to only have 21 games together, but it's just kind of been that year. Either I'm in, or [James is] in, and the times we do play together we look really good – and then somebody's out of the line-up.

"It's been tough not being able to fully reach our potential, as far as us three being on the floor and seeing what we really could be.

"But that being said, we also have enough to win basketball games, either when [James] doesn't play or when I don't play. 

"You saw tonight, we fought extremely hard, and we were there, there were just some costly plays in the last four or five minutes that cost us the game."

That thought about what the Lakers could have been was not a passing one for Davis, who admitted it weighs on his mind.

 "I think the biggest thing that I think about is 'what could have been'," he said.

"If we stayed healthy all year, what could we have been? 

"Of course you have to figure out the kinks early on, but after that 10, 15, 20 games to figure it out, and you get close to All-Star [Weekend], or after All-Star, and you're rolling, you feel like 'what could we have been' if I was healthy all year, or LeBron was healthy all year, if [Kendrick] Nunn was healthy.

"You think about those things. When we put this team together, it really looked good on paper, but we haven't had a chance to reach our potential."

While there is plenty of reflection happening, Davis insisted his side is not going to roll over in the last few games of the season, but admitted he feels like people enjoy watching the Lakers struggling.

"We know with the situation we're in, especially with losing today, it's another must-win – a must-must-win – in Phoenix [against the Suns on Tuesday]," he said.

"[Phoenix] is playing well, but also can be beat. But [our] spirits are high, we're not a team that's going to fold until it's all the way over.

"We've got four games left, and it's our job to try and compete and go out and win every one of those.

"There's no moral victories in this league. Especially with us – the whole world wants to see us lose, to be honest."

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