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The 2022 NBA MVP race has narrowed down to three finalists: Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Joel Embiid.

Jokic has recently taken over as the betting favorite with only a few games left on the schedule, but Embiid isn’t going down without a fight. The Philadelphia 76ers center exploded for 44 points and 17 rebounds in an important win against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night. After the game, he sent a candid message to the MVP voters in an effort to revive his dying chances of winning the award.

Joel Embiid makes an emphatic MVP statement

We’ve known all season long that Embiid is the engine that makes the 76ers run, but that has never been more evident than it was on Sunday night. In a crucial game for playoff seeding in the Eastern Conference, the Sixers big man assaulted the stat sheet with 44 points, 17 rebounds, five blocks, and three assists. He shot 12-of-26 from the floor and was a game-high +16 in 38 minutes. No other starter was better than a +5.

Not only did Embiid score nearly 40% of Philadelphia’s total points in the 112-108 win, but he was also the best defensive player on the floor all night. The Sixers stood no chance in the game without him.

“I get to witness his greatness every night,” James Harden told reporters after the game. “Obviously, his offensive numbers tonight are self-explanatory. Defensively, he was very active blocking shots, changing shots, and clogging the paint up was key.”

Still, after the statement performance, Jokic stood tall as the MVP favorite at -300 odds, per DraftKings. Embiid is close behind at +230, and Antetokounmpo is a bit further back at +550.

Embiid gets honest about his MVP chances

Joel Embiid reacts against the Cavaliers.
Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts during a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers | Jason Miller/Getty Images

Embiid can feel the MVP award slipping out of his grasp. The 76ers superstar was the betting favorite for most of 2022, but Jokic recently jumped him in the odds after nearly averaging a 30-point triple-double over his last five games.

If Embiid can’t win the award this season, he doesn’t think he’ll ever be crowned the MVP.

“If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, I don’t know what I have to do. I’ll feel like they hate me. I feel like the standard for guys in Philly or for me is different than everyone else.”

Joel Embiid

The MVP voters surely don’t hate Embiid. He’s been stellar all season long and would be a deserving winner of the award, but so would Jokic and Antetokounmpo. Two players are guaranteed to feel slighted by the voters depending on how this award shakes out.

Embiid’s MVP case

If you look solely at the advanced metrics, Jokic is the clear MVP of the 2021-22 season. But the MVP award is as much about narratives as it is about statistics.

The 76ers didn’t have their second-best player, Ben Simmons, on the court all season. And still, Embiid carried a team with a horrid bench to one game out of the No. 1 seed in the East before Simmons was traded for Harden. Philadelphia is 5-8 without Embiid in the lineup this season. The team is 43-22 when he plays, which stretched out over an entire season would be the third-best record in the league.

The Sixers are still in play for the No. 1 or No. 2 seed with four games remaining on the schedule, and if they finish with a better record than the Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets, that might be enough to push Embiid over the top in an extremely tight race.

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