NBA roundup: Jokić makes MVP case in Nuggets win, Miami snaps skid
Charlotte, North Carolina - With the NBA MVP seemingly down to a two-horse race between Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokić, the Denver Nuggets big man dominated yet again as his side beat the Charlotte Hornets 113-109.
Jokić, who is following up his MVP win last year with the greatest playmaking season of any center in the 21st century, finished the contest with 26 points, 19 rebounds, and 11 assists.
All five Nuggets starters scored at least 14 points, with Jokić and Aaron Gordon both finishing with a plus-minus of at least plus 20, which suggests that it was Denver's mediocre bench unit that struggled enough to keep things close.
Still, with a player currently leading ESPN's PER rating, the Nuggets can never be discounted.
For the Hornets, Reigning Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball was terrific, scoring 22 points with 11 assists and six rebounds.
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Playing without star duo Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Boston Celtics pushed fellow Eastern Conference contenders Toronto Raptors all the way before ultimately losing 115-112 in overtime.
The star of the show was Raptor Pascal Siakam, who hit two clutch free throws to send the game to overtime on his way to final tallies of 40 points and 13 rebounds to go with three steals and two blocks.
Despite the loss, which sent the Celtics from the one seed toppling down to the four seed, they are now 22-4 in their past 26 games dating back to the end of January.
With Boston falling out of the Eastern Conference's top seed, the Miami Heat have reclaimed it, beating the Sacramento Kings 123-100 after a recent rough stretch.
Jimmy Butler (27 points) and Bam Adebayo (22 points) starred for Miami, while Sixth Man of the Year lock Tyler Herro chipped in with 20 points off the bench.
Meanwhile, the flailing Chicago Bulls have now lost six of their past eight after another disappointing defeat at the hands of the New York Knicks 109-104.
RJ Barrett continued his ascension, scoring 28 points in 43 minutes.
Cover photo: IMAGO / Agencia EFE