Dallas’ defensive woes all season may be hurting the once-solid case for Luka Doncic’s Kia MVP.

Speaking specifically about his team’s leaky defense, Dallas coach Jason Kidd may have inadvertently predicted Luka Doncic’s seemingly dwindling prospects to win Kia MVP.

Like Doncic, the Mavericks can score.

Like Doncic, the club also struggles to prevent opponents from putting the ball into the basket.

dallas’ 130-122 losses The Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday provided the latest evidence, with the Mavericks losing their third straight game, having allowed an average of 135.3 points in each of those losses before Friday’s clash with the Miami Heat at American Airlines Center (7:30 a.m. ET, ESPN).

When asked how to stop the bleeding, Kidd went deep on his team.

“If it’s with this staff, then you have to keep asking or demanding those guys play defense,” he said. “It’s not just the offensive end. Tonight, again, we give up 130 [points]. The team shot at 57%. It’s a shootout. In this league, [if] you do that, it doesn’t matter if you have luka or kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] lebron gold [James]you will lose.

“No matter how many points you score, you’re always going to come up short. So until we try harder to play defense and understand what we have to do, we’re going to score 120. But we’re going to give up 130, 140. One night, we might give up 150. But I’ll be fine because we scored, so I don’t know. It will look so bad.”

Interestingly, the situation almost mirrors Doncic on the quest to win his first MVP. The 23-year-old consistently puts out flashy numbers on offense. But of all the players ranked in the top five on this week’s Kia Race to the MVP Ladder, Doncic has the worst defensive rating (115.3).

While no one expects the shutdown to show itself night after night by the three-time All-Star, if his current defensive rating holds up, it will register as a career low for the leader of a team that was seventh final season in defensive rating (109.1) but it is 25 in that department (115.0) in 2022-23.

“The last few games, we’ve scored like 130 in almost every game,” Doncic said. “I think we are good in attack. We have to put the same effort in defense as in attack”.

Losers of six of their last eight outings, the Mavericks faced a Miami team on Friday that has won seven of its last 10, including Wednesday’s 124-98 road win against a New Orleans team that was missing CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, and Zion Williamson.

Colleague John Schuhmann points out that Miami the improvement of the bench has played a role in its recent heyday. Meanwhile, the Mavericks welcomed their two best perimeter defenders in Dorian Finney-Smith and Josh Green on Wednesday, and that should help against the Heat. But Dallas also announced Thursday that power forward Christian Wood (broken left thumb) will be at least a week.

That leaves Dwight Powell and JaVale McGee as the only healthy bigs on the list because Maxi Kleber is still in rehab from a December. right hamstring surgery.

As for this week’s edition of the Kia Race to the MVP Ladder, Doncic drops two spots to No. 4 as seven teams are 1 1/2 games or less behind Dallas in the Western Conference standings.

Jayson Tatum returns to No. 2 following Boston’s overtime win over the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, while Joel Embiid moves up to No. 3 after leading Philadelphia to a No. 4 win in their current five-game roadie. in the West.

And now, the top 5 in the 2022-23 Kia Race to the MVP Ladder:


1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Ranking last week: No.1

Season Stats: 25.1 ppg, 11.0 games per game, 9.9 ppg

Count it. We are now at 90 career triple-doubles for Nikola Jokic, who scored number 14 this season (not to mention his fifth in six games) in Wednesday’s win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a day after notching a 36-point triple-double against Portland. Russell Westbrook is the last player (2021) to chain five triple-doubles in six games, and the Nuggets are a perfect 14-0 when Jokic reaches that stat line. Tea all-time assist leader In Nuggets franchise history, Jokic has dropped 37 cents in just his last three games as Denver has won eight in a row, including 15 straight home wins. Jokic hasn’t shot less than 60% from the ground in his last five appearances. Awesome.

Why Nikola Jokic keeps holding his own against Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid at the top of the Ladder.


2. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Ranking last week: Number 3

Season Stats: 31.2 points per game, 8.5 games per game, 4.3 points per game

Let fall 34 points with 19 rebounds, the highest of his career. in Boston’s overtime win against Golden State, helping the Celtics capture their eighth straight win. Since the last three games of the 2022 NBA Finals, Boston had lost four in a row to Golden State, but that changed Thursday night. “We lost the championship. Nobody can take that back,” Tatum said when speaking about the Celtics’ mentality before the game. “So we didn’t see this as a rematch of the Finals. It’s just a game against a great team with great players and a great coach. But it was just a game.”

Jayson Tatum blasts the Warriors with 34 points and 19 rebounds to fuel a 121-118 overtime win.


3. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Ranking last week: Number 5

Season Stats: 33.6 points per game, 9.8 games per game, 4.2 points per game

The steady increase continues. Embiid has missed three straight games since Jan. 1. 4-8, but came back strong, averaging 34.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 1.8 bpg in the six games since. The Sixers have won four in a row on their current five-game tour of the West and have won eight of their first 10 games in January to move into a second-place tie with the Bucks in the East. “I think we’re good, and I think we can be very, very good,” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said. Much of that depends on Embiid’s continued production on both ends of the floor, as he the great man and james harden They seem to be hitting the mark.

Joel Embiid scores 32 points and nine rebounds in a win vs. Portland.


4. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Ranking last week: No.2

Season Stats: 33.7 points per game, 8.8 games per game, 8.8 points per game

punctuation is not the problemNeither are shooting, considering the Mavs have shot 50% or better from the field in three of their last four games. Doncic leads the NBA with 31 30-point games this season, which is also a career high. But the 23-year-old, and the rest of the team, need to drastically improve the defense in order for Dallas to return to its winning ways, which would only improve Doncic’s MVP prospects. It’s not that this team isn’t capable, either, as evidenced by last season’s run to the West finals with Doncic serving as a willing defensive entrant. Every other player in the top five on this list has a defensive rating of 111.3 and since christmasDallas has the second worst defensive rating in the NBA (121.9).


5. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Ranking last week: No. 4

Season Stats: 31.0 ppg, 11.9 games per game, 5.3 ppg

Antetokounmpo has not played since January 11, when he scored a season-low seven points in a win at Atlanta while adding 18 rebounds and 10 assists. He has missed the last four Milwaukee games dealing with knee painBut the Bucks aren’t concerned about the two-time MVP’s future availability, as he is expected to return soon, according to coach Mike Budenholzer. “Taking care of him is always our priority,” Budenholzer said. “We’re probably always going to err on the side of caution because we know how important it is to us.” At 31 points per game, Antetokounmpo is set to produce the highest-scoring season of his career and the third-highest-scoring season in Bucks history.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 10 assists and 18 rebounds in his last game.


the next five

Michael C. Wright explains why Ja Morant didn’t make the top 5 on Kia’s MVP ladder, and why that shouldn’t be considered a ‘snub.’

6. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies (Last week’s ranking: No. 7)
7. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets (Last week’s ranking: No. 6)
8. Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers (Last week’s ranking: No. 8)
9. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Last week’s ranking: No. 10)
10 Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics (Last week’s ranking: No. 9)

And five more (in alphabetical order): Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors; James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers; Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz; Julius Randle, New York Knicks; Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings

* * *

Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can send him an email herefind your file here and follow it on Twitter.

Opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs, or Warner Bros. Discovery Sports.

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