The NBA Starts To Heat Up

As the season nears its end, columnist Anthony Gharib takes a look at the race for MVP and a final playoff spot in the Western Conference

With roughly 20 games remaining in this exciting NBA season, there is no shortage of drama and questions to be answered. 

Are the Clippers finally a threat? Can LeBron steal another MVP award in his 17th year? Will Zion and the Pelicans catch up to face the Lakers in the first round? 

The Clippers, who were supposed to be the biggest challenge to the Lakers have struggled with injuries throughout the season. Nevertheless, finally healthy and balling, the Clippers embarked on a six game winning streak before losing to the Lakers last Sunday. The Lakers are now the favorites to win it all in June, according to political and sports blog FiveThirtyEight. Hopefully, a match-up arises between the two for a spot in the NBA Finals in May.

The race for MVP looks to be between Giannis Antetokoumpo of the Bucks and LeBron James of the Lakers. 

Antetokoumpo has been averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and career-high 5.8 assists per game all on 30 minutes per game (mpg). LeBron, however, has been averaging 25.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and league-leading 10.6 assists on 34.9 mpg. 

With the “Greak Freek” out for a two games and after LeBron’s dominating play against the Bucks and Clippers this past weekend, the MVP should be returning to the King.

One key race still needs to be completed: the race for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The young and hungry Memphis Grizzlies with explosive rookie Ja Morant currently hold the spot with an even record of 32-32. “Grind City” has had the spot for most of the season, yet they do have the toughest schedule among playoff contenders the rest of the season, according to ESPN. 

As the New Orleans Pelicans dropped to ninth and four games behind the final spot in the West, our dreams of a Zion vs. LeBron first-round matchup seem to be over for now. However, with the easiest schedule remaining in the NBA, it might not be too late. 

Instead, the Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings are also both fighting to see who will be taken out in the first round by the Lakers. Portland currently has the 11th spot with a record of 28-37, and 4.5 games behind the Grizz. The Blazers, however, have the second easiest schedule and the return of star Damian Lillard might indicate a run. 

The Sacramento Kings have a record of 28-36 and like New Orleans are four games behind the final spot. They have the tenth toughest schedule and have been 7-3 in their last ten games. Forward Harrison Barnes also told reporters last month he would “not cut my hair” until they reach a. 500 win percentage.


A final spot deserves to be with Memphis, who I believe will clinch their playoff berth.