Not sure if y’all have noticed, but the MVP debate has gotten a bit heated the last several weeks with an interchangeable group of three players charging the discussion. While you could still say that Giannis Antetokounmpo should be part of that discussion (I think he still has a strong case), much of the animated debate by literally everyone from the talking heads down to the water-cooler loiterers (still a thing?) has been the case between Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. Both deserving, both amazing players, but one most remember when dealing with a Philadelphia fanbase, one must wear helmets. While the discussion has been both riveting content and a dumpster fire, mostly stemmed from Kendrick Perkins being the toxic fire-starter he’s paid to be, the discourse has gone sour the past month, and to some, a bit tiresome.

Thus enters last night, the potential of these two players matching up against each other in a game with seeding and playoff weight, a true litmus, a game that many could draw conclusions from, perhaps un-muddying the MVP waters (real thing?) for many. Basically, it was a chance for one of Jokic or Embiid to put up or shut up. (You know, not to mention a potential Finals preview from two of the better teams in the league…) But despite the focus and stakes of last night’s Nuggets/Sixers match-up, Joel Embiid sat due to a calf issue while Jokic led Denver to a win with 25 points, 17 rebounds, and 12 assists on 8/11 shooting. Do you want a cautionary approach with your star(s)? Sure, I guess. But then one has to wonder why he just played against Golden State. And with all the talking lately from Embiid… to just sit out? Not a great look, especially when you realize he hasn’t played in Denver since something like pre-Covid.

My general rule? Don’t act disrespected and then sit in one of the biggest games of the year, but that’s just me. The odds have already flipped on the MVP with Jokic now the favorite once again, and why shouldn’t he be? I was waiting for the counterargument, but there was none. But at least Embiid is staying true to the player he really is, a victim who finds a new way to lose every year, which seems apt since that pretty much describes the Philly sports scene. And whether that’s true or not for Embiid, nuance like that doesn’t matter right now, that’s what it looks like, which I think is sad for one of the greatest big-man talents out there in the game right now.

Here’s what else I saw during yesterday’s games…

Jaden Ivey – 32 MIN, 9-19 FG, 3-6 3PT, 11-12 FT, 8 REB, 8 AST, 4 TO, +1, 32 PTS. I can’t wait to see Ivey and Cade together; this pair should be just as entertaining to watch as the young duo over on the Rockets in Smith Jr. and Green.

Khris Middleton – 33 MIN, 13-23 FG, 1-7 3PT, 7-8 FT, 8 REB, 5 AST, 2 TO, +11, 34 PTS. No hyperbole, if Middleton is consistently playing this well by the postseason, there’s nobody beating this team, full stop.

Jaden Hardy – 24 MIN, 8-12 FG, 4-6 3PT, 4 REB, 4 AST, 3 STL, 4 TO, +24, 20 PTS. Just a friendly reminder that Hardy was drafted at #37 overall.

Alperen Sengun – 28 MIN, 5-9 FG, 1-1 3PT, 0-1 FT, 5 REB, 1 AST, 1 BLK, 5 TO, -24, 11 PTS. Stephen Silas will do anything but play Sengun more minutes. Yes, his defense wasn’t great, and yes, the turnovers suck, but are Rockets in it to win or develop? Not giving this guy 35 minutes every night is a crime.

Walker Kessler – 30 MIN, 8-10 FG, 2-5 FT, 8 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 7 BLK, +7, 18 PTS. Still pretty stunning that Rudy Gobert-lite was just a throw-in. He’s been excellent defensively the entire season and has great hands as well, but he has no range with his shot and might never. Still, it’s not like Jazz don’t know how to utilize a profile like this.

Furkan Korkmaz – 7 MIN, 2-2 FG, 2-2 FT, 1 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, +10, 6 PTS. Sixers Death Star lineup of Korkmaz, Springer and Harrell. Fire when ready.

Nikola Jokic – 35 MIN, 8-11 FG, 9-11 FT, 17 REB, 12 AST, 2 BLK, 3 TO, +11, 25 PTS. Witness the MVP Virgin Joel Embiid: 0/0/0 on 0% shooting with 0 blocks versus the MVP Chad Nikola Jokic: 25/17/12 on 79% shooting plus two blocks… I mean, as I alluded to above and I’ll say again for those in the back: Embiid played against an inconsequential game against the sixth seed Warriors (in order to prove something to Draymond?) but sits out a game against Nuggets and Jokic with all the aforementioned conditions? As Chuck would say: “Turrrible.”

Shaedon Sharpe – 35 MIN, 5-13 FG, 1-4 3POT, 1-1 FT, 8 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 2 TO, -36, 12 PTS. Portland pulling off one of the more blatant tank jobs I’ve seen in a while.

Kyle Anderson – 36 MIN, 5-10 FG, 2-3 3PT, 3-4 FT, 4 REB, 11 AST, 2 STL, 1 TO, +0, 15 PTS. Wolves are now one game back of the four seed (the hapless Clippers) after missing KAT for most of the season. I’ve always been wary about his return and how it would affect the team, but things are gelling right now for sure. I mean four wins in a row? On a California road trip? Not bad at all…

Russell Westbrook – 33 MIN, 6-11 FG, 0-3 3PT, 0-3 FT, 5 REB, 10 AST, 3 STL, 3 TO, +16, 12 PTS. That’s 10 on Russ, but 41 assists for the Clippers is insane. Say what you want about his time with the Lakers, but really Russ has always been the same guy. The only thing that’s changed is that Russ looks much better without the 40 million salary, not to mention that a lot of Lakers fans forget that the Clippers had John Wall before Russ.




Jay is a longtime Razzball everything who consumes an egregious amount of Makers Mark as a vehicle to gain wisdom and augment his natural glow. Living in the D.C. area, he also likes spending time visiting the local parks and feeding lettuce to any turtles he encounters, including Mitch McConnell.