In the NBA’s inaugural year of having a play-in tournament for the playoffs, the most intriguing matchup will come on Wednesday night when the No. 7 seed Lakers host the No. 8 seeded Golden State Warriors.
It will feature two of the game’s biggest stars in LeBron James and Stephen Curry, the latter of whom James believes is this year’s league MVP.
“I mean, just look at what he’s done this year,” James said on Sunday after locking into the 7-seed, per ESPN. “I don’t know anything else if you’re looking for an MVP. If Steph is not on Golden State’s team, what are we looking at?
“We get caught up in the records sometimes. We get caught up in the, OK, who has the best record, instead of just saying who had the best season that year. And Steph has had, in my opinion, the best season all year.”
James, who is certainly no stranger to carrying the bulk of the load for a team, has a strong argument to make.
Curry is coming off a career-best 32 points-per-game, which won him his second NBA scoring title — becoming the oldest player to win one at 33 since Michael Jordan won it at age 35 — and has the Warriors in the play-in tournament after losing Klay Thompson for the season.
While Curry belongs in the MVP conversation, the frontrunner is likely Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic — who averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 1.3 steals and had a 56% field-goal percentage.
Mavs’ Luka Doncic, Sixers’ Joel Embiid and Bucks’ Giannis Antetokuonmpo are also in the conversation.
While postseason play is not accounted for in MVP voting, Curry can show why he deserves it if he can lead the Warriors past the Lakers in the play-in game for the No. 7 seed.
The winner of the game will move onto the first round to face the No. 2 Phoenix Suns, while the loser will play the winner of the 9-10 seed matchup for the No. 8 seed and a matchup with top-seeded Utah Jazz.