XWW Sports >Football World >Kia MVP Ladder: Luka Doncic's momentum moves him to No. 2

Kia MVP Ladder: Luka Doncic's momentum moves him to No. 2

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Luka Doncic has played strong of late and has Dallas looking sharp late in the regular season.

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Setting the stage this week, the mad dash for postseason seeding hurtling into the regular season’s final month might shift the Kia MVP conversation more than expected.

We’re starting to see it now as Luka Doncic generates momentum with rock-solid consistency as the face of Dallas’ change of identity as a team no longer living and dying at the 3-point line, while displaying a nightly commitment to stacking defensive stops.

That’s been key in the Mavs’ ascension to sixth in the West, as they ride a 9-1 run headed into Friday’s game at Sacramento (10 p.m. ET, NBA TV).

Brace yourselves for more Friday from Doncic and other MVP hopefuls leading their respective teams in a 12-game slate featuring at least seven contests dripping with serious postseason implications.

Clinging to fading playoff hopes, the Lakers face sixth-place Indiana on the road (7 p.m. ET, NBA TV). The fourth-seeded LA Clippers, losers of two of their last three, play the second game of their four-game road trip in Orlando (7 ET, NBA League Pass) as New Orleans and Dallas nip at their heels in the Western Conference standings.

Then, there’s Philadelphia at Cleveland (7:30 ET, NBA League Pass), Phoenix at Oklahoma City (8 ET, NBA League Pass) and a showdown between West heavyweights Minnesota and Denver at Ball Arena (9 ET, NBA League Pass) with the top seed on the line.

So, soak it all up.

By the night’s end, your talks surrounding the Kia MVP could wind up all over the place, just like the recent thought-provoking discussion on TNT between Shaquille O’Neal, Adam Lefkoe, Candace Parker and Jamal Crawford.

And you won’t be wrong.


One stat to know: 44 — The number of 30-point triple-doubles for five-time All-Star Doncic, which ranks third in NBA history. The 25-year-old has more 30-point triple-doubles than four active players (LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and James Harden) that own a combined nine MVP awards.

What They’re Saying: “We’re all big fans of each other, and I think that’s the most beautiful thing. We had a good trade deadline. We’re coming together at the right time. We don’t take for granted how well we’ve been playing.” — Dallas guard Kyrie Irving, on the vibe surrounding the Mavs

Still rising: If you’ve made it this far into the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder, then you know it’s Doncic, who finally passes up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Oklahoma City dropped two of its last three games, and Gilgeous-Alexander sat out of Wednesday’s loss to the Houston Rockets as he’s battling through a quad injury.

Keep track of how our MVP rankings continue to evolve throughout the season.


1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Last week’s ranking: No. 1

Season stats: 26.1 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 9 apg

His case: The two-time MVP continues to grind through left hip soreness and lower back pain. But Denver has won four of its last five going into Friday’s game vs. Minnesota. In the four games Jokic has played over that span, the 29-year-old averaged 29 points, 12.5 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

The Nuggets suffered a setback Wednesday, losing to Phoenix for the second time this month. The Timberwolves are lurking just a half-game behind them in the West.


2. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Last week’s ranking: T-3

Season stats: 33.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 9.8 apg

His case: There’s still work to do, but the wins are finally starting to match the 25-year-old’s otherworldly production. Throughout Dallas’ 9-1 run, Doncic has posted 29.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 10 apg and 1.7 spg.

Of course, the team’s only loss over that span came March 14 at Oklahoma City in a game Doncic missed due to a sore left hamstring. After the clash at Sacramento on Friday, the Mavs head to Houston on Sunday to face the red-hot Rockets.


3. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week’s ranking: No. 2

Season stats: 30.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 6.3 apg

His case: The injury report going into a home clash Friday with Phoenix doesn’t look good with Gilgeous-Alexander listed as doubtful due to a right quadriceps contusion. He suffered the injury more than a week ago but continued to try to play his way through the pain.

The latest setback comes at a crucial time. After the matchup against the Suns, the Thunder play five straight on the road, including games at New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Indiana.


4. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Last week’s ranking: T-3

Season stats: 30.7 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 6.4 apg

His case: Antetokounmpo fights hard. But the two-time MVP needs help with Milwaukee dropping two in a row despite the eight-time All-Star averaging 31.3 points and 16.3 rebounds in his last three games.

Antetokounmpo scored 20 straight points in the third quarter of Thursday’s loss at New Orleans yet didn’t take a shot in the fourth quarter until 28.7 seconds remained. By comparison, Zion Williamson scored 11 of his 28 points in the final frame.


5. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Last week’s ranking: No. 5

Season stats: 27.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 4.9 apg

His case: Tatum and the Celtics suffered their second loss to Atlanta in four days Thursday, falling 123-122 in overtime in a game featuring the second-most lead changes (41) since the 2000-01 season. The five-time All-Star dropped a team-high 31 points with 13 rebounds.

But the loss marked the first time since March 7 that Boston suffered defeat in a game that featured Tatum, Derrick White, Jrue Holiday, Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis in the starting lineup.


The next five

6. Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings (Last week’s ranking: No. 6)7. Kevin Durant, Phoenix Suns (Last week’s ranking: No. 8)8. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns (Last week’s ranking: No. 9)9. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers (Last week’s ranking: unranked)10. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers (Last week’s ranking: No. 7)

And five more (listed alphabetically): Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks; Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves; Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves; Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers; Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

* * *

Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.

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