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Nikola Jokic beats out Joel Embiid, Stephen Curry for NBA MVP
AP

Nikola Jokic beats out Joel Embiid, Stephen Curry for NBA MVP

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APTOPIX Trail Blazers Nuggets Basketball

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) celebrate the team's double-overtime win against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic won the 2020-21 NBA Most Valuable Player award, beating out Warriors star Stephen Curry, the league announced Tuesday.

Curry and Sixers center Joel Embiid were the other finalists, with Embiid coming in second with 586 total votes and Curry in third with 453 total votes.

Curry received five first-place votes, 23 second-place votes and 32 third-place votes; while Embiid received just one first-place vote but 62 second-place votes to edge out Curry for second place.

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Jokic, who ran away with the award with 971 total votes (including 91 first-place votes), started all 72 games for the Nuggets and averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists — all setting or matching career highs — while shooting 57% from the floor, including 39% from 3-point range. His Nuggets finished third in the Western Conference at 47-25 and eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round in six games.

Meanwhile, Curry averaged 32 points on 48% shooting, including 42% from 3-point range, to win the league’s scoring title and lead the Warriors to a 15-5 record in the final 20 games of their season before bowing out in the play-in tournament.

Over the Warriors’ final 20 games, Curry averaged 37.2 points on 48.7% shooting (44.3% from 3-point range) to elevate his candidacy in the MVP race, edge out Wizards guard Bradley Beal (31.3 points) for the scoring title and thrust Golden State into the play-in tournament mix. When Curry played, the Warriors were 37-26 — equal to a 48-win pace in a typical 82-game season.

But the Warriors finished with a 39-33 record and missed the postseason for the second straight year.

Meanwhile, perhaps the biggest indicator of Jokic’s MVP status was how the Nuggets fared when star guard Jamal Murray went down for the season with an ACL tear during an April 12 loss in Golden State. With Jokic carrying the team, the Nuggets won 13 of their final 18 games down the stretch to secure the No. 3 seed.

Embiid averaged 28.5 points on 51% shooting, 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 blocks to lead Philadelphia to a 49-23 record and the top seed in the East, but played in just 51 games. Rounding out the top five in MVP voting was Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (348 total votes) and Phoenix’s Chris Paul (139 total votes).

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