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Nikola Jokic, Damian Lillard Set to Battle for MVP Honors

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CBS Sports analyst Brad Botkin discussed the burgeoning battle between Damian Lillard and Nikola Jokic for the NBA MVP award.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

As the NBA enters the final run of the 2020-21 regular season, the NBA MVP race between Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard and Nuggets maestro Nikola Jokic is heating up. On Wednesday, CBS Sports analyst Brad Botkin mentioned the tight awards race that is unfolding in the Northwest Division.

In the story, Botkin explained that Jamal Murray’s unfortunate knee injury has set the stage for Jokic to pull away from Lillard in the final stretch of the season.

This award has realistically been Jokic’s to lose for a bit, but I’ve argued it would be tough to justify Jokic over Lillard if the Blazers were to finish ahead of Denver. The reason? Lillard has played a worse hand to nearly the same success. His second- and third-best player in CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic have missed 60-plus combined games.

But now Jokic gets his chance to show what he can do absent his second-best player in Jamal Murray, who tore his ACL on Monday night. It’s a massive blow to Denver’s playoff prospects, but for the remainder of the regular season I think Denver is going to rally behind Jokic, and it will be the final stamp on his MVP case.

Statistically, Jokic boasts a stat line that clocks in at 26.2 points, 10.9 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game. Comparatively, Lillard is averaging 28.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game.

You can read Botkin’s full assessment at CBS Sports.