The Buzzer Beater: Celtics impressing, Jokic's game-winner and Pistons make history


The Buzzer Beater: Celtics impressing, Jokic's game-winner and Pistons make history

Jokic headlines another great fortnight of NBA
Jokic headlines another great fortnight of NBAProfimedia
In a new fortnightly feature, Flashscore's Tolga Akdeniz rounds up everything from the fast-paced world of the NBA, as he takes a look at the title contenders, the MVP frontrunners, the most interesting stats and more.

Leading Championship contenders

1. Boston Celtics (29-9) 

Tatum continues to star for the Celtics
Tatum continues to star for the CelticsProfimedia

The Boston Celtics have been the best team in the NBA this season, and they find themselves leading the Eastern Conference.

Their offensive rating (120.4) is the third-best in the league, while their defensive rating (111.3) is the fourth-best. Their home record has been nothing short of sensational, as they are now 18-0. Only three other teams over the last 20 years have started a season 18-0 or better, and it is a franchise record.

Jayson Tatum continues to lead the way for the Celtics, averaging 27.4 points per game, 8.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists. He and Jaylen Brown are yet again forming a strong backcourt partnership, with Brown averaging 23.1 points this season.

2. Denver Nuggets (26-13)

Murray and Jokic is one of the best partnerships in the NBA
Murray and Jokic is one of the best partnerships in the NBAProfimedia

The reigning NBA champions seem to be coasting a little bit during the regular season, as they sit third in the Western Conference. However, this is not a cause for concern in the slightest.

With their extra bit of experience after winning the Championship last season, it looks more like a case of them pacing themselves.

The Nuggets sit in the top 10 of both offensive (118.5) and defensive (113.2) ratings, and in Nikola Jokic, they have the best player in the NBA.

I can see them upping their level at some point to finish top of the Western Conference.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (26-11)

The Thunder are an exciting team full of young talent
The Thunder are an exciting team full of young talentProfimedia

The second-youngest team in the NBA have been one of the biggest surprises this season, but they have cemented themselves as one of the best teams in the West, showcased by their position in joint-first.

The Thunder's offensive (120.4) and defensive ratings (111.3) are both in the top five in the league, and if Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chet Holmgren - who has been the best rookie in my eyes - continue playing the way they are, it will take a lot to stop them.

4. Milwaukee Bucks (26-12)

The Bucks possess one of the best offences in the league
The Bucks possess one of the best offences in the leagueProfimedia

The Bucks' emphatic recent win over the Celtics will have given them a lot of confidence, even though their opponents benched all their starters for the second half.

With Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, they have the ability to hurt anyone, and their offensive rating of 120.7 - which is the second-best in the league, backs that up. Malik Beasley also has the highest three-point percentage in the league (47.8%).

However, they are seriously struggling defensively. Their defensive rating (116) leaves them in 19th, meaning they have to rely on their attacking firepower to bail them out. They are a powerful team, but I'm not sure if that is sustainable come the playoffs.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves (26-11)

Edwards has been a force in offense and defence
Edwards has been a force in offense and defenceReuters

Joint first in the West, the Timberwolves have also been one of the surprise packages in the NBA. And that is down to their amazing defence.

Their defensive rating of 108.6 is by far and away the best, while Rudy Gobert (0.176), Anthony Edwards (0.159) and Mike Conley (0.149) all rank in the top 10 in defensive win shares, with Gobert out in front in the NBA. Win shares is a stat that aims to give credit to individuals for certain aspects of team success.

Their offensive rating (113.8) puts them in 19th, which is a little worrying. However, with Anthony Edwards playing such good basketball, coupled with their brutal defence, they earn a spot in the top five for this fortnight.

Leading MVP contenders

1. Joel Embiid (34.6 - 11.8 - 6)

Embiid is a point-scoring phenomenon
Embiid is a point-scoring phenomenonReuters

Last year's winner is on course to be crowned MVP again this year, as he continues to put up remarkable point-scoring numbers for the Philadelphia 76ers. He leads the NBA in points per game alongside being fifth in rebounds per game.

However, his injury issues might work against him if he misses more long stretches. Embiid has been out of six of the last eight games, and has played 11 fewer games than his closest rival on the list. However, there is still a long way to go, and Embiid is currently out in front.

2. Nikola Jokic (25.5 - 11.8 - 9.2)

Jokic looks set to be going to head-to-head with Embiid for another MVP crown
Jokic looks set to be going to head-to-head with Embiid for another MVP crownProfimedia

The two-time MVP winner, and last season's Finals MVP, hasn't hit his usual lofty heights, but he continues to be phenomenal. He is averaging a near triple-double, with the third-highest APG and fourth-highest RBG.

He may not score as many points as others on this list, but he is the most unselfish and best offensive player in the league, capable of providing for his teammates with his sensational passing. What's more, once he's in the paint, he's virtually unstoppable. 

Jokic is the best player in the NBA, and in a few weeks, he could easily find himself on top of these rankings.

3. Luka Doncic (33.6 - 8.1 - 9.1)

Doncic is having another relentless season
Doncic is having another relentless seasonReuters

My favourite player in the league, I feel Luka Doncic's chances are not as good as the other two mentioned, purely because the Dallas Mavericks aren't a side at the top of their conference. Dallas are on the cusp of the playoff places, and have played some good basketball this season, but Doncic's performances have been special.

His PPG is second to only Embiid, and his all-round game and dominance with the ball make him a joy to watch.

We are yet to really see him alongside Kyrie Irving due to Irving's injury problems, but once they get consistent game time together, I expect the Mavericks to secure a place in the playoffs without having to go through the play-in tournament.

He will have to pull out all the stops during the second half of the regular season to leapfrog Embiid and Jokic, but the thing about Doncic is that he is more than capable. 

4. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (31.4 - 5.9 - 6.3)

SGA is leading the Thunder's charge
SGA is leading the Thunder's chargeReuters

After being named in the All-NBA First Team in 2023, Gilgeous-Alexander's game has only propelled forward, while spearheading an exciting Oklahoma side.

A man with little weakness to his game, his reliability from mid-range is a sight to behold. No player has more 30-point games than him this season, while only Embiid and Doncic are averaging more PPG than him this season.

Gilgeous-Alexander easily could have been third on this list, but I leant to Doncic, maybe just out of personal preference. 

5. Giannis Antetokounmpo (31.2 - 11.5 - 5.9)

Giannis is eyeing a third MVP title
Giannis is eyeing a third MVP titleReuters

Another two-time MVP, the unguardable Antetokounmpo rounds out the top five. No player has scored more points than him this season (1156). His power and athleticism contribute to one of the best offences in the league.

Only five players have averaged more RPG than the 'Greek Freak', while the top three on this list are the only players with more PPG. 

Much like Doncic and Gilgeous-Alexander, Antetokounmpo is going to have to do a lot in the second half of the season to claw back Embiid and Jokic, who are currently the big favourites to be named MVP.

Best stats

Thunder obliterate Blazers

The Thunder's 139-77 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on January 12th was tied for the fifth-largest victory in NBA history.

Embiid targeting history

Embiid is averaging more PPG (34.6) than minutes played (34.1) this season. If he continues this, he will become the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in the 1961/62 season to achieve this feat. Chamberlain averaged a staggering 50.4 PPG in an equally staggering 48.5 minutes per game.

Pistons make unwanted history

This happened a little over two weeks ago, but I just had to include it. On December 29th, the Detroit Pistons lost their 28th consecutive game, tying the all-time NBA record, but breaking the record for consecutive defeats in one season. The 76ers lost 28 games in a row over the course of two seasons.

The Pistons would go on to beat the Toronto Raptors to break their duck, but since then, they have lost six games in a row. Normal service resumed.

Best image

Usually a cool, collected character, Jokic very rarely shows his emotions on court. Therefore, when he drained a 39-foot buzzer-beater in the fourth quarter to down the Golden State Warriors on January 5th, the sheer delight and exhilaration on his face, as he wheeled away celebrating, was a great moment.  

Jokic celebrates his buzzer-beater
Jokic celebrates his buzzer-beaterProfimedia

Best plays

Jokic's buzzer-beater

You wanted to see Jokic's crazy shot? Here it is.

LeBron James' dunk

The Los Angeles Lakers may be enduring a tough season, as they desperately search for any momentum, but LeBron James is still motoring along at 39 years old. Father time doesn't seem to be catching up to him. How else can you explain this insane dunk on Paul George?

The Victor Wembanyama show

There's a reason why Victor Wembanyama is being touted as the greatest talent since LeBron James. The rookie has shown the world his raw ability this season, and these two plays against the Milwaukee Bucks was nothing short of breathtaking. 

All facts and figures are true as of January 12th


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