Joel Embiid came into Wednesday’s games fifth in the NBA in scoring, 10th in rebounding and arguably first in most indispensable player for his team. Then he dropped 50 on Orlando in just 27 minutes.
Later on Wednesday night out west, Denver’s Nikola Jokic made a similarly emphatic case for most indispensable when he put up 49 points, 14 boards, and 10 assists in an overtime win over the Clippers.
The Sixers are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, just 2½ games out of first. It’s a reasonably small deficit given that the Sixers’ other top pieces have been either inconsistent (Tobias Harris) or MIA (Ben Simmons).
We just passed the halfway point of the season, and the MVP Award is very much up for grabs — especially after Kevin Durant reportedly could be out 4-6 weeks with a sprained knee. He was Caesars favorite before Saturday’s injury, but the odds board shuffled dramatically. Embiid has dropped from 50-1 last week to 12-1 before Wednesday to 5-1 on Thursday morning. Caesars is the only house with him that low.
“If you play a good series of games, you’re going to get noticed,” Adam Pullen, director of trading for Caesars, said on Wednesday. “It may seem like a limited amount of games, but that’s all it takes for people to jump back on the bandwagon, especially one of the top players in the league like Embiid is.”
The Sixers have won 11 of their last 15 with Embiid averaging 33.1 points and 10.1 boards per game.
Steph Curry (2-1 at PointsBet) still is the consensus favorite ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo (3-1). Jokic dropped from 8-1 to 5-1 and Embiid went from 10-1 to 17-2 after their most recent dominant performances.
“Whilst Jokic, Antetokounmpo, and Embiid are having statistical seasons commensurate with award winners in years past,” PointsBet trader Sam Garriock said Wednesday, “they lack the team success that is typically synonymous with the award.”
Again, Embiid’s Sixers are in fifth place in the East, Jokic’s Nuggets are in sixth in the West (11 games back, though), and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks are fourth in the East.
In the last 10 years, the MVP has been chosen from a conference’s No. 1 or No. 2 seed eight times, so team success is a key factor.
“The league’s standout team — the Phoenix Suns — are defined by their depth and excellent coaching rather than one superstar, which leaves just Steph Curry [of Golden State] as the sole player who can pair the team success with individual brilliance, which is why we still have him as the favorite for the award,” Garriock explained.
“The Warriors’ recent struggles and Curry’s own shooting slump has left the door ajar for one of the three aforementioned players [Jokic, Antetokounmpo, and Embiid] … and should one of them haul their team to a strong second half, they could absolutely wrest the award away from Curry.”
PointsBet’s NBA MVP odds
Jan. 15 (before Durant’s injury): Kevin Durant +175, Steph Curry +250, Giannis Antetokounmpo +450, Nikola Jokic +1000, Joel Embiid +1600
Wednesday morning: Curry +160, Antetokounmpo +280, Jokic +800, Embiid +1000, Durant +2000
Thursday morning: Curry +210, Antetokounmpo +300, Jokic +500, Embiid +850, Durant +2500
Embiid’s current odds
The last 10 NBA MVPs, where their teams finished in conference standings, and how they fared in the playoffs. Note that the postseason does not factor into regular-season MVP voting.
2020-21: Nikola Jokic, Denver – 3rd in West, lost in second round
2019-20: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 1st in East, lost in second round
2018-19: Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee – 1st in East, lost in conference finals
2017-18: James Harden, Houston – 1st in West, lost in conference finals
2016-17: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City – 6th in West, lost in first round
2015-16: Stephen Curry, Golden State – 1st in West, lost in NBA finals
2014-15: Curry, Golden State – 1st in West, won NBA title
2013-14: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City – 2nd in West, lost in conference finals
2012-13: LeBron James, Miami – 1st in East, won NBA title
2011-12: James, Miami – 2nd in East, won NBA title
Sixers MVPs and where the team finished:
2000-01: Allen Iverson – 1st in East, lost in NBA finals
1982-83: Moses Malone – 1st in East, won NBA title
1980-81: Julius Erving – 3rd in East, lost in conference finals
1967-68: Wilt Chamberlain – 1st in East, lost in division finals
1966-67: Chamberlain – 1st in East, won NBA title
1965-66: Chamberlain – 1st in East, lost in division finals
Let ‘em eat cake
“If you like to eat chocolate cake, and you eat a piece, and then you have one dangling in front of your face, you’re probably going to want to eat that, too.”
That was noted food connoisseur Andy Reid, who is hoping to take another bite of the Super Bowl trophy. Kansas City plays Buffalo on Sunday (6:30 p.m., CBS3) in what is arguably the best game of the divisional round. Here are the Chiefs’ Super Bowl odds throughout the year:
Preseason: 9-2, coming off blowout loss to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl.
Oct. 12: 15-2, just lost to Buffalo to fall to 2-3.
Oct. 26: 16-1, hammered by Tennessee to drop to 3-4.
Dec. 28: 4-1, trounced Pittsburgh for eighth consecutive win
Jan. 19: 4-1, facing Buffalo in divisional round; Bills are 11-2 to win the Supe.
Cincinnati at Tennessee, Saturday (4:30 p.m.): The Titans are up to -3.5 after opening -2.5, an important jump over the significant 3-point spread. Over/under is up just slightly from 46 to 47 in some places.
San Francisco at Green Bay, Saturday (8:15 p.m.): Another bump on the favorite as the Packers have gone from 4.5 to 6. The total is hanging around 47. “This line has gone up for a couple reasons,” said Pullen, director of trading for Caesars. “[San Francisco quarterback] Jimmy Garoppolo’s hurt, we took some sharp bets early on at 4.5, and the market has agreed with the early move; it’s basically 6 across the board. We’ll see if the sharps decide to start getting in at 6.”
L.A. Rams at Tampa Bay (Sunday, 3 p.m.): Most ‘books have moved to Tampa -3 after a 2.5-point opening. Total is holding at 48.5 or 49.
Buffalo at Kansas City (Sunday, 6:30 p.m.): The Chiefs have been adjusted down from 2.5 to 1.5. They’ve been favored in all 18 games this season with a 9-9 record against the spread, but they’ve covered their last five at home. Chew on that, Coach Reid.