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76ers HC Nick Nurse: Knicks’ Jalen Brunson ‘much deserved MVP candidate this year’

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Nick Nurse believes Jalen Brunson belongs in the MVP conversation.

Speaking to reporters ahead of tipoff in Game 1 between the Knicks and Sixers on Saturday, Nurse explained how difficult it is to slow down the Knicks’ All-Star guard.

“I think that — first of all, he’s unbelievable obviously. Much deserved MVP candidate this year really,” Nurse said pregame on Saturday. “What he’s done with this team winning and the way he’s played. I think it’s like anybody though. He’s the main focal point. We gotta really work.”

Brunson is averaging career-highs across the board.

His 28.7 points per game ranks fourth among qualifying NBA players behind Dallas’ Luka Doncic, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Brunson’s 48% shooting efficiency is also a career best, as are his 6.7 assists and 2.7 made threes per game.

Nurse admitted pregame his Sixers cannot guard the star Knicks guard straight-up.

“We’ve gotta put some different matchups on him to try to change things up. Gotta throw some different schemes at him,” Nurse said. “Jumping out of some things, but I think the main thing is that we just continue to work. He’s gonna make some shots. When he does, we gotta take it out, and go the other way. Don’t overreact to it and gotta go again. Like, I think that’s the most important thing that you can work hard and play perfect defense, and he’s still gonna throw one in. When he comes back down the next time, you gotta line up and try it all over again and do the best you can. That’s the main thing.”

Brunson’s ascent has earned him MVP consideration, but he isn’t considered a frontrunner to win the award.

Denver’s Nikola Jokic is a candidate to win his third MVP award in the last four years. Gilgeous-Alexander is a strong candidate, too, after leading his Thunder to the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed. And you can’t forget Doncic, the Slovenian wunderkind propelling the Mavericks to new heights.


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