Sky Sports’ NBA 2022/23 Christmas Review: Five big talking points from the action so far | NBA News

Five big talking points from the action so far, and what you can expect from the tail end of the 2022/23 NBA season…

Anything can happen

The Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks are vying for pole position in the Eastern Conference.

Though it may have been a long stretch of dominance for the Celts, a recent string of defeats to the Orlando Magic, the Golden State Warriors, and the Los Angeles Clippers, proves that there are weaknesses in the supposed best team in the league.

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Highlights of the Orlando Magic against the Boston Celtics in Week 9 of the NBA season

Perhaps teams have become savvier on how to dismantle the Jayson-Tatum-led offence. Perhaps Tatum’s absence di lui on Sunday as he celebrated his son’s birthday was all that was needed to allow Paolo Banchero to work his magic di lui.

With the Cleveland Cavaliers lurking as the number three seed, and in a good vein of form as they finally operate with a fit and healthy Donovan Mitchell, there’s every opportunity for a surprise coup, should the Celtics not treat this recent lapse with the seriousness it deserves.

The play-in teams are just as exciting

The Brooklyn Nets offer the same level of clarity in their own starters too now that the dust has settled on their early season controversy.

Head coach Steve Nash was relieved of his duties on November 1 at the end of a tumult reignuous that had seen injuries and Kyrie Irving’s Covid vaccination ineligibility issues limit him and Kevin Durant to just 64 appearances together, while the pair and James Harden featured only 16 times together as a trio that had been tipped for Championship success.

Brooklyn’s offseason had been marred by Durant’s trade request and accompanying ultimatum seeking the dismissal of both Nash and general manager Sean Marks, before more recently Irving was given a multiple-game suspension without pay after initially refusing to issue an apology for posting a link to an antisemitic work on his Twitter feed.

Indeed, under new head coach Jacque Vaughn, the Nets have won their last five games, with nine of their previous 10 ending as victories. Couple that with Kevin Durant in MVP-reaching form and you have a team set to maintain their spot in the play-ins.

Both the Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Knicks will be looking to do the same in the post-Xmas stretch. For the former, Joel Embiid has been in monstrous form, dominating the rim action, and transcendent in transitions. His team have now won four on the bounce, and they are very adept with sharing the points. In recent games, De’Anthony Melton, Georges Niang and Shake Milton have picked up double digits.

Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, the Sacramento Kings could be on their way to a first play-in visit since 2006, possibly joined by the Portland Trail Blazers, if they can find consistency in their form.

How the tables are turning

The defending champions are in a spot of bother.

No Stephen Curry for over a month. Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson are managing injuries. All responsibilities fall onto an unreliable pairing of Jordan Poole and James Wiseman. A torrid record on the road.

Perhaps we are being premature with our worries. But the fact of the matter is, the Dubs are not inspiring hope that they’ll make it to the play-ins. Without their key starters, they are hardly impressed, with Sunday’s 126-110 victory over the Toronto Raptorsa rare win without Curry’s inclusion.

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Highlights of the Golden State Warriors against the Toronto Raptors in Week 9 of the NBA season

They have one of the worst defensive records in the league, conceding over 100 points per game, and are frequently unable to put together a real defensive setup.

Time is running out. And not just for the Warriors, but the Los Angeles Lakers too. And the Dallas Mavericks. Each of these teams boast the best players in the league, battling away in the MVP conversation, but unable to save their teams from capitulating. If that isn’t entertaining, then we don’t know what is.

The tankathon is well and truly on

There are six teams vying for the basement spot in the NBA Conference standings. Some are there by choice, others not so much.

The San Antonio Spurs seem to be in both categories. For starters, they did not put up much of a fight as their star player DeMar DeRozan departed for greener pastures, instead trading him for four future first-round picks. Though head coach Gregg Popovich swears they’re in it to fight, it’s very easy to see the prize – Victor Wembanyama – and get excited.

The Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets are both teams undergoing rebuilds. The same can be said of Banchero’s Magic.

Oklahoma is the one team that already brags a superstar in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. A team-up of Wemby and SGA would be absolutely deadly. But that’s just one more reason to continue watching.

MVP conversations in full flow

The MVP conversations are in full flow, and there’s no shortage of talent vying for the prize.

Leading the charge are Boston’s Tatum and the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic, both players who have broken points records this season on the path to attaining the newly named Michael Jordan trophy.

Sprinkle in Ja Morant, Kevin Durant, Curry, Zion Williamson, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Nikola Jokic, who obtained a massive triple-double on Sunday night, and you’ve got yourself a race.

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Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic became only the third player in NBA history to record at least 40 points, 25 rebounds and 10 assists in a game

Notable injuries have sleuthed their way in to derail our predictions in the past. Indeed, no MVP winner has missed more than 11 games a season and still won it. Curry is already on that path, and perhaps Morant too. Anthony Davis is another who was in the best form of his life before a foot injury intervened.

In that case, keep up to date with our MVP predictions and picks, and we’ll make sure each turn and twist is held accountable.

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