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Can LeBron James Catch Giannis Antetokounmpo For NBA MVP?

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Can LeBron James Catch Giannis Antetokounmpo For NBA MVP?
LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers is guarded by Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks. Harry How/Getty Images/AFP

The NBA MVP race was supposed to be a formality with Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo a near-lock to repeat. That might not be such a sure thing now, though.

The biggest game for the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA regular season was last Friday night when the two championship favorites, the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers, met at Staples Center in L.A. The Bucks were underdogs for just the fourth time this season and lost 113-103.

LeBron James was clearly fired up to face off against reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo as James was the best player on the floor with 37 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. LeBron had a spectacular one-handed spinning dunk with 27 seconds left, which brought on more chants of “M-V-P!” from the Lakers faithful. The win also clinched the Lakers’ first playoff berth since 2013.

Entering that game, the Greek Freak was a heavy favorite on the NBA odds at SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks to repeat as MVP. As of this writing, many books have taken down that prop because Antetokounmpo injured his knee late. He has been diagnosed with a minor joint capsule sprain in his left knee.

Antetokounmpo missed Sunday’s loss in Phoenix and was not going to play Monday in Denver – the Bucks were +5 for that one, easily the biggest they have been underdogs all season. They essentially have zero chance of getting to 70 wins this season now as the Bucks could only afford one more loss to have a shot.

While that injury is not considered serious, many of the books are playing it safe by taking down the NBA MVP prop for now. There are a few that still have it up and generally, Antetokounmpo is down to around -550 with LeBron at +800. So still a pretty sizable gap.

Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks. Harry How/Getty Images/AFP

Freakish Statistics

Statistically, Antetokounmpo deserves another MVP. He’s averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists on the team with the league’s best record. His player efficiency rating of 31.74 is not just first in the NBA but one of the best of all-time.

LeBron, meanwhile, is averaging 25.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and a league-high 10.6 assists with a player efficiency rating of 26.00 that’s seventh. James has 13 triple-doubles on the season, one behind Dallas’ Luka Doncic for the league lead. The Lakers are 20-0 this season when James scores 30 or more points, the most such wins without a loss in NBA history.

LeBron has raised his game of late, averaging 30.3 points and 10.0 assists over his past nine. The 35-year-old is the oldest player in NBA history to average at least 30 points and 10 assists in a nine-game span. The previous oldest was the Lakers’ Jerry West at age 33 from November-December 1971.

James had another big game Sunday as the Lakers got their first win in three tries against the Clippers. LeBron had 28 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. He outplayed Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers had been 10-0 when coach Doc Rivers had his full roster available.

“His best weekend in a Lakers uniform I’m assuming,” first-year coach Frank Vogel said. “I wasn’t here last year but, in my mind, this was the best two-game stretch. Really just dominated both games and helped close them out.”

Doncic is +1800 to win MVP and the 21-year-old is definitely going to win at least one in his career barring major injury. Just not this season. It’s still going to be the Greek Freak!