After the agony of another painful defeat, this time blowing a double digit lead in Portland and succumbing to a 47-14 free throw deficit, the 76ers are without Joel Embiid on the front end of a back-to-back against the Denver Nuggets. The Sixers are 1-7 in games without Joel Embiid this year, outscored by 75 points in total and crumbling apart on the defensive end of the court. Things aren’t necessarily looking up; however, the one win was a convincing one in the mountains of Utah, so there’s a glimmer of hope for tonight. Here are three things to look forward (?) to:
- A different kind of itch. Nikola Jokic presents an entirely different challenge than Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic is brutish with some unrefined but interesting passing and midrange shooting skills, and more importantly he is blessed with the powers of a Mario Super Star after being called for his fifth foul. Jokic is finesse and feel personified and is the centerpiece of...
- Denver’s egalitarian offense. Jokic is Denver’s leading scorer, averaging only 16.2 points per game. Despite this, Denver ranks 7th in offensive rating, per basketball-reference. Seven active Nuggets average at least 9 points per game, with four of those averaging at least 14.9. Denver’s scoring sources are largely matchup dependent; Jokic scores in bunches when he has to, but he prefers to be a facilitator. Jamal Murray and Will Barton can be hot and cold, but each is hard to stop when three pointers are falling. Gary Harris is always solid. And Trey Lyles has been an important player since Paul Millsap, foremost player enemy of Process fans, went down to a wrist injury.
- Have you checked out Dario Saric’s stats lately? Sticking with the -ic theme, I admittedly have less future Dario Saric stock than most Sixers fans, mostly because I can’t see a world where Saric can comfortably fit into a lineup with Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Robert Covington. While it has worked thus far this season, the offensive creation burden on Embiid is too great when there isn’t a second guard who can make his own shot. Saric’s play with that lineup and outside it, though, has been encouraging. After a strong shooting effort in Portland, Saric’s 3FG% is up to 35%, just short of league-average, and his best games aside from that have been ones where Embiid isn’t playing. Dario as the focal point of offense without Embiid, and some limited time alongside him, might be his best use going forward in Philadelphia.
Time: 9:00 PM
Watch/Listen: NBC Sports Philadelphia/97.5 The Fanatic
One more note: Robert Covington left Thursday night’s game with a finger injury and did not return, a key loss for the Sixers. Covington left the game when the Sixers were up double digits. He is questionable for tonight’s game.