Welcome back to NBA Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players getting the most buzz around the league. Inclusion on this list isn’t necessarily a good thing — it simply means you’re capturing the NBA world’s attention. This is also not a ranking. The players listed are in no particular order. This column will run every week throughout the regular season.
Giannis served the Sixers a 40-piece on Tuesday as the Bucks, who’ve won 11 of 15 since the All-Star break, moved into the East’s No. 2 seed, one game up on both Boston and Philadelphia.
Antetokounmpo added 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks to his ledger. The last of those blocks was a potential game-saver as Joel Embiid, after an offensive rebound, had a point-blank layup that would’ve tied the game with less than two seconds to play before Giannis erased it.
Giannis almost certainly isn’t going to win MVP, but he’s yet again been nothing short of dominant all season. The development of his midrange game has made him even more lethal, and now that the Bucks aren’t just giving him the ball at the top of the key against a set defense waiting to form a wall and asking him to put his head down, there’s really no way to stop or even contain him.
Coming into Tuesday’s matchup with the Bucks, I wondered how badly either of those teams really wanted to win that game. To me, starting the playoffs from lower than the No. 2 seed, which would eliminate Brooklyn as a potential first-round opponent, might be a more advantageous path, though you could argue forfeiting home-court advantage in the second round would be something more detrimental to a title run.
Either way, both teams made it clear they wanted to win that game, and now I’m wondering how much of that had to do with Embiid wanting to make his MVP statement against Giannis Antetokounmpo. Embiid didn’t win the individual matchup or the game, but he was typically terrific in his own right, finishing with 29 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists.
After the loss, Embiid was not happy with the way Doc Rivers structured his minutes, wanting to be on the court at the same time as Giannis, who scored 15 of his 40 points over a five-minute span that Embiid sat between the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth. Over the span, the Bucks trimmed Philly’s lead from 10 to four and flipped the momentum decidedly.
With the loss, Philly dropped to the No. 4 seed, which would currently mean a first-round matchup with Chicago, entering play on Wednesday.
Jokic went for 26 points, 19 rebounds and 11 assists in a win over the Hornets on Monday, two days after a 35-12-8 showing in a win over the Thunder. Those victories are huge for the Nuggets, who hold a two-game edge over the No. 7 Timberwolves to stay above the play-in line with six games to go.
Jokic is my MVP. I don’t have a vote, so what I think doesn’t matter. But that’s my opinion nonetheless. There are a lot of different reasons I believe this, but just as a quick snapshot, check this out.
Not bad company and the fact that Jokic is doing this on 65.8 percent true-shooting is astounding. The year that Westbrook filled the stat sheet like this (2015-16), he had a 55 TS% and a 48 EFG%. Moreover, Jokic’s 32.7 PER and 13.8 BPM are all-time records.
In his first game back after more than three months of rehabbing a torn UCL in his right elbow, George led the Clippers out of a 25-point hole to defeat the Jazz on Tuesday. George was magnificent, finishing with 34 points, six assists and five steals on 10-of-20 shooting, including 6-of-9 from 3.
The Clippers have made a dangerous habit of digging double-digit holes this season, but no team is better at overcoming deficits to still come out victorious. This is the 12th time the Clippers have come back from at least 13 down to win this season and the fourth time they’ve rallied by at least 24 down to win. Both those marks lead the league.
Tatum was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. That’s two straight POW awards for Tatum, making him the first player in Celtics history to do that. Tatum has scored 30-plus in five of his last six games and is shooting a blistering 47 percent from 3 for the month of March.
Tatum isn’t going to win MVP, but that doesn’t make any of this less impressive.
Boston is currently the East’s No. 3 seed, and it got some relatively good news on Wednesday that Robert Williams could be ready to come back in four to six weeks, which could make him eligible somewhere in the second round if the Celtics are able to advance.
Booker was named Western Conference Player of the Week for averaging 37.3 points on 58-percent shooting, including 43 percent from 3, over the Suns’ last three games, all wins. Phoenix, in fact, has won eight straight and locked up the No. 1 overall seed.
Over the last month, Booker has nuked his opponents like he’s the beneficiary of their life insurance, averaging 30.3 points for the month of March. He went for 49 in a win over the Nuggets on Thursday, then backed that up with 35 in a victory over the Sixers on Sunday.
Good luck determining where Booker fits in the absolutely loaded All-NBA landscape, but he certainly has first-team credentials.