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The Rundown: Mavs secure playoff berth, Jokic carries Nuggets

May 15, 2021, 1:00 PM ● Miguel Flores

Dallas clinched a playoff spot by beating Toronto, while Nikola Jokic’s triple-double paced Denver past Detroit.

Scoreboard

Wizards 120, Cavaliers 105
Nuggets 104, Pistons 91
76ers 122, Magic 97
Jazz 109, Thunder 93
Grizzlies 107, Kings 106
Mavericks 114, Raptors 110
Rockets 122, Clippers 105
Warriors 125, Pelicans 122

What went down

On a night when most contenders sat their stars and the only bit of on-court excitement in the NBA came because of three straight missed free throws, most of the intrigue came from the movement in the standings. With only two days left in the regular season, the playoff standings can still shift in many interesting ways.

The Dallas Mavericks’ win over the Toronto Raptors gave them a playoff spot, leaving the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers to fend for the last guaranteed playoff seed. To avoid the play-in, Portland needs only to win against the Denver Nuggets on Monday or for the Lakers to lose one of their last two remaining games. The Lakers, on the other hand, need a Portland loss and two consecutive wins to clinch the sixth seed.

Speaking of the Nuggets, their win today and the Los Angeles Clippers' loss put the three and four seeds in the West in limbo until their final games as both teams hold identical 47-24 records. No matter how that shakes out, we’re bound to have juicy matchups up and down the Western Conference first round. Having the Golden State Warriors and the Lakers as potentially the lower two seeds just set up what should be a fun month of Western Conference action.

Big-time baller

At this point in the season, it should be plainly obvious that Nikola Jokic is the MVP. It was fun discussing the merits of Steph Curry carrying the Warriors to a 10th seed, pre-injury Joel Embiid and James Harden, and the underrated case of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

But Jokic is putting up numbers that shoot up in the echelon of the greatest big men to play in the league. Today, Jokic was his usual dominant self, hanging a triple-double of 20 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 assists on the lottery-bound Detroit Pistons.


Jokic’s game evokes old-school big man play ala Bill Walton with his passing and post play while also flashing the modern aesthetic with his Dirk-ish shooting. He's also carrying a team ravaged by injuries to a top seed in West. The Joker is MVP.

What they said

Today, the Hall of Fame class of 2020 received their class rings and jackets. There were a couple of moving moments throughout the ceremony like seeing the Inside the NBA crew get their roses or just having Rudy Tomjanovich there in full good health, but two stood out. First, Kevin Garnett, known for keeping it a hundred no matter the consequences, thanked the Timberwolves organization. It's no secret Garnett and the Timberwolves have had several past and recent problems. Seeing him give love to the city and the team that molded him from “The Kid” to “The Big Ticket” was a solid dose of catharsis.


The second moment was Natalia Bryant putting on Kobe's Hall of Fame jacket in the ceremony. There's bound to be plenty more emotional moments over the weekend from the ceremony. This was certainly just the first hit of Mamba Mentality. 


Did you see that?

ICYMI, Sabrina Ionescu is awesome. On the WNBA's opening day, the league’s future GOAT returned from a long absence by saving the New York Liberty.