Thursday Sports in Brief

NBA Basketball

NBA

Denver’s Nikola Jokic finished ninth in the MVP voting last season. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Golden State’s Stephen Curry didn’t get listed on a single ballot a year ago.

A year later, one of them will walk away with the NBA’s highest individual prize.

Jokic, Embiid and Curry were revealed Thursday night as the three top votegetters for this year’s NBA MVP award, one that will be presented sometime during the playoffs. Curry is a two-time winner, Jokic’s best previous finish was fourth in 2019 and Embiid’s best MVP showing was seventh in 2019.

Jokic would be the first Denver player to win MVP. Embiid would be Philadelphia’s first winner since Allen Iverson in 2001 and Curry could become the ninth player in NBA history to win the trophy three times.

The 18 top-three vote-getters in six award categories – MVP, coach of the year, most improved player, rookie of the year, defensive player of the year and sixth man of the year – were announced Thursday.

WASHINGTON (AP)Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal did what they do – a near triple-double for one, 25 points in just 29 minutes for the other – and the Washington Wizards reached the NBA playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed by overwhelming the Indiana Pacers 142-115 in the play-in round Thursday night.

Washington led by as many as 38 points and advanced to face Joel Embiid and the No. 1 seed Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, marking quite a turnaround for coach Scott Brooks’ crew, which was 17-32 in early April.

Indiana’s run of five consecutive playoff appearances ended in coach Nate Bjorkgren’s debut season.

A little more than a week after breaking Oscar Robertson’s career record for most regular-season triple-doubles, Westbrook finished Thursday with 18 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists, and it was Beal – second in the NBA in scoring two years in a row – whose 3-pointer opened up a 30-point lead at 98-68 with about four minutes left in the third quarter.

Beal skipped the fourth quarter entirely. Westbrook sat out the last 8 minutes and tossed his shoes to a fan.

ATLANTA (AP) – Atlanta Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan was fined $25,000 by the NBA on Thursday after saying the league is rooting for the success of the New York Knicks and implying his team may struggle to get calls in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Hawks face the Knicks in a best-of-seven series that begins Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

McMillan called the Knicks one of the league’s glamour franchises, even though this is New York’s first appearance in the playoffs since 2013.

McMillan said he put his team through a grueling practice where most of the officials’ calls were going against them, insinuating it will be that way in the opening round. He said he wanted the players to work on not being frustrated if the referees seemed to be favoring the Knicks.

OLYMPICS

TOKYO (AP) – The IOC wraps up its final planning sessions on Friday with Tokyo Olympic organizers, just two months before the games are to open. Much of the focus is on persuading a skeptical public and medical community that the games should go ahead.

The core problem is that 60 to 80% of people in Japan, depending how the question is asked in public opinion polls, don’t want the postponed Olympics to open in the middle of a pandemic despite repeated assurances from organizers that games will be ”safe and secure.”

There is no indication so far the games will be canceled. The International Olympic Committee has repeatedly said they are going ahead.

But the IOC’s most senior member Richard Pound, in an interview with Japan’s JiJi Press, said that the final deadline to call it off was still a month away.

COLLEGE

DETROIT (AP) – A student sued the University of Michigan on Thursday to try to force changes in how the school protects the campus from sexual misconduct, the latest strike after a year of scandals involving a doctor and the chief academic officer.

The class-action lawsuit seeks a series of reforms, including the appointment of an independent monitor to enforce the steps.

The school has been rocked by allegations from hundreds of men who said they were molested by the late Robert Anderson, a campus doctor who spent nearly 40 years at the school. He died in 2008.

Separately, the university paid $9.25 million to eight women who reported emotional or sexual abuse by Martin Philbert, who over 25 years rose from professor to provost, the senior academic official. He was removed in 2020.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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