The NBA MVP race should be peaking.
Before the NBA suspended its regular season to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the choice was going to come down to the Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James and the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Our NBA columnist Mark Medina wrote March 5 on the MVP race, positing the question of whether James could catch Antetokounmpo, the front-runner for nearly all of the season, and with good reason: Both had led their teams to the No. 1 seeds in each conference.
Could LeBron have closed the gap in the eight games that would have been played since March 11? How would Giannis recover from his minor joint capsule sprain in his left knee?
Antetokounmpo suffered the injury, which caused him to miss the two games before the season's halt, during the Bucks' loss to the Lakers on March 6. Before the stoppage, Milwaukee had lost three in a row and four of its last five. Meanwhile, the Lakers surged into the final month of the regular season, winning 11 of 13; in that span, James averaged 28-9-10.
Whether Antetokounmpo would have returned to face the Boston Celtics on March 12 remains unknown. James was scheduled to be in action that night too, against the Houston Rockets.
According to ESPN, the Lakers played the second-toughest schedule this season, compared to Milwaukee's tie for 23rd. The West is the stronger conference, but the Lakers would currently be in the middle of a six-game road trip against mostly weak Eastern Conference teams (Cleveland, Detroit, Charlotte, Washington) and a tougher matchup in Toronto.
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo during a March 6 game. (Photo: Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports)
Antetokounmpo still bests James in a bunch of major stats, including a ridiculous 31.6 PER. Assuming the NBA regular season is gone, or that Antetokounmpo will be healthy upon its resumption, "The Greek Freak" will likely take home his second straight MVP award.
We'll never know if "The King" would've given him a run for his money.
What to watch today
Baseball: ESPN is airing 20-strikeout games all day (all times Eastern).
- 12 p.m.: Boston Red Sox vs. Seattle Mariners, 1986 (Roger Clemens)
- 2 p.m.: Chicago Cubs vs. Houston Astros, 1998 (Kerry Wood)
- 4 p.m.: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Cincinnati Reds, 2001 (Randy Johnson)
- 6 p.m.: Washington Nationals vs. Detroit Tigers, 2016 (Max Scherzer)
Tennis: The 2017 Australian Open men's final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer (ESPN 2, 1 p.m.).
College basketball: CBS is broadcasting national title games from years' past, same as it did last week.
- 1 p.m.: Villanova upsets Georgetown, 1985
- 2:30 p.m.: Arizona defeats Kentucky, 1997
- 4 p.m.: Gordon Hayward's half-court buzzer-beater rims out and Butler falls to Duke, 2010
NBA: NBA TV is showing Games 5-7 of the 2013 NBA Finals throughout the afternoon.
Documentary: From 2-5 p.m., ABC is showing Parts 1 and 2 of ESPN's "30 for 30" on the Lakers-Celtics rivalry.
For racing fans, IndyCar is hosting its first iRacing Challenge at 4 p.m. on various social channels.
Sports videos of the day
In reference to the top, a Giannis highlight video:
And a LeBron highlight package:
Both are 20 minutes long. Quite a start to a Saturday.
March 28 in sports history
1933: Kentucky beats Mississippi State to win the inaugural SEC tournament.
1982: Louisiana Tech wins the first NCAA women's basketball tournament with title game victory over Cheney.
1990: Michael Jordan scores a career-high 69 points in the Bulls' overtime win over the Cavaliers.
Story time! Here are some of our best
AS LATE AS POSSIBLE:MLB players willing to play until Thanksgiving.
TRASH TALK:It's a state of mind for new Colts quarterback Philip Rivers.
NEW WORLD:How one network is adapting on the fly without live games.
BRAD STEVENS:Celtics coach says basketball takes "far back seat" during pandemic.
GUIDANCE NEEDED:OU coach says coronavirus rules among Power 5 not equal.
WARNING: Coronavirus battle could be months long, NCAA advisors caution.
PROTECT DB: ESPN's Doris Burke reveals she tested positive for coronavirus.
GETTING OUT:Aaron Rodgers describes his frantic departure from Peru.
BIOLOGICAL BOMB:Sports still face huge hurdles when returning from hiatus.
Sports we're missing
NCAA men's basketball tournament
Regional finals (Elite Eight), Midwest (Indianapolis)
Regional finals (Elite Eight), West (Los Angeles)
Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays
Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins
Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros
Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians
St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds
Kansas City Royals at Chicago White Sox
Pittsburgh Pirates at Tampa Bay Rays
New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles
Atlanta Braves at Arizona Diamondbacks
Minnesota Twins at Oakland Athletics
San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers
Colorado Rockies at San Diego Padres
Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners
Cleveland Cavaliers at Brooklyn Nets
Los Angeles Clippers at Charlotte Hornets
New York Knicks at Chicago Bulls
Toronto Raptors at Memphis Grizzlies
Los Angeles Lakers at Washington Wizards
Phoenix Suns at Miami Heat
Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden State Warriors
Atlanta Hawks at Utah Jazz
Pittsburgh Penguins at Carolina Hurricanes
Philadelphia Flyers at New Jersey Devils
Florida Panthers at Boston Bruins
New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Lightning
New York Islanders at Montreal Canadiens
Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators
Washington Capitals at Detroit Red Wings
Columbus Blue Jackets at Dallas Stars
Buffalo Sabres at Minnesota Wild
Nashville Predators at Arizona Coyotes
Anaheim Ducks at Vancouver Canucks
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
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