A very interesting weekend in the NBA MVP race
Plus: Jimmy Butler walks out, we get two scuffles and The Beam is brighter than ever.
Good morning. What a weekend of basketball! A month left in the regular season. Lots remains up in the air. Let’s get to it.
By the way, over the weekend I published a guide to writing about sports on Substack. Vox Media cut back on its sports blog habit again, and a bunch of sports bloggers are looking for a place to write. If you know a sports blogger trying to figure stuff out, send them to that post. Hopefully it will help a little.
With that, let’s basketball.
Blazers 119, Sixers 120 — It feels like the Philadelphia defense has become more vulnerable since Tyrese Maxey replaced De’Anthony Melton in the starting line-up. And the Sixers were down 21 in this game. But Joel Embiid sure can make up for a lot of deficiencies.
That’s a 7’2 dude taking a spin move fadeaway from 15 feet for the win. 39 points on 65% shooting, 18 free throws. Three blocks, two steals, four assists.
But Brooklyn pulled out the overtime win anyways. Competitive team. Not going away quietly. Miami and Atlanta are running out of time to gank the Nets’ top-6 spot.
Nuggets 120, Spurs 128 — The conversation around this game is about Nikola Jokic’s defense against the one of the worst offenses in the NBA. This video compilation of him getting scored on has more than a million views.
It’s obviously a video put together with a slant, but also the clips don’t lie: the Spurs targeted Jokic and scored a bunch of points with him in the action. That said: he had 37 on 58% shooting with 11 rebounds, 11 assists and three steals. He was 4/6 on threes; the rest of the team shot 31% from deep. I’ve been pretty clear about my insistence that defense matters a lot in MVP races, going all the way back to supporting Kawhi Leonard over James Harden and Russell Westbrook in 2017. More on how defense plays into MVP later.
We had some real spice between Zach Collins and Michael Porter Jr.
“Hand to the opponent’s throat” is a good instinct that is going to eventually end up badly for you!
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