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Denver Nuggets

MVP candidates in the clutch: Nikola Jokic leads the way with three game-winners

With less than a month remaining in the regular season, the race for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award has four clear names: Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Paul George and Nikola Jokic.

A case can be made for each candidate depending on what you value, but today, we're looking at how they have all performed in the clutch this season, specifically on go-ahead shots in the last five seconds of a close game.

Jokic is the leader of the group, with three game-winners on the season - the same amount as Antetokounmpo, Harden and George combined.

Nikola Jokic - 3 winning shots (last 5 seconds)

The most recent, of course, is the one that ruined another great performance from Luka Doncic on Thursday night.

Jokic received the ball on the left side of the court, drove by Dwight Powell and drained a tough floater over the Dallas Mavericks big man to give Denver a 100-99 win.

On Jan. 8, Jokic stunned the Miami Heat in similar fashion - by making a floater over Bam Adebayo that gave the Nuggets a 101-99 lead with 2.4 seconds remaining.

On Feb. 13, it was the Sacramento Kings who were on the receiving end of a Jokic game-winner. Following a pick-and-roll with Monte Morris, Jokic took another floater, only this time he missed it.

Jokic, however, beat Willie Cauley-Stein and the Kings to the offensive rebound for the putback with 0.3 seconds left to secure the win.

Paul George - 2 winning shots (last 5 seconds)

On Feb. 22, the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Utah Jazz in a thriller.

Not only did George score a game-high 45 points, he made the game-winning basket over reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert in double overtime.

On Dec. 5, meanwhile, George silenced the Brooklyn Nets with a triple following a pick-and-pop with Russell Westbrook, giving the Thunder a 114-112 win.

George also helped the Thunder beat the Philadelphia 76ers with a late 3-pointer on Jan. 19, but it doesn't make the cut for this list because he left 5.1 seconds on the clock - sorry PG but rules are rules.

James Harden - 1 winning shot (last 5 seconds)

Harden's game-winner was perhaps the most memorable of the season.

On Jan. 3, Harden knocked down a tough 3-pointer over Klay Thompson and Draymond Green with one second remaining in overtime that put the Rockets ahead 135-134.

Harden finished the game with an impressive 44 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists.

Candidates in the clutch

The fact that Antetokounmpo is yet to make a go-ahead shot with five seconds remaining in the game shouldn't take away from the incredible season he is having.

Not only has the Greek Freak been the best player on a Milwaukee Bucks team that has the best record in the entire NBA, but he's also been the most efficient MVP candidate in the clutch, which the NBA defines as the last five minutes of a five-point game.

Here's how they have all performed in those situations:

Player FGM FGA FG% 3PM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% TS%
Giannis Antetokounmpo 28 45 62.2 1 5 20.0 28 44 63.6 66.0
James Harden 35 92 38.0 14 53 26.4 66 80 82.5 59.0
Paul George 32 85 37.6 13 44 29.5 51 57 89.5 58.1
Nikola Jokic 34 68 50.0 6 14 42.9 17 21 81.0 58.9

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