Philadelphia kicks off a four-game West Coast road trip tonight with a game against the Denver Nuggets. The Sixers have yet to face Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets this season; the two clubs will play again at The Center on February 8th. The Nuggets enter this contest sitting comfortably in the Western Conference playoff picture, trailing only the Golden State Warriors with a 32-15 record. The Sixers are currently in 4th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 32-17.
The Nuggets, not unlike the Sixers, have a freakishly talented center in Nikola Jokic. Unlike the Sixers, theirs will be available to play tonight. Joel Embiid’s absence was announced during a Brett Brown press conference yesterday, and described as a planned rest. Embiid has been suffering from back tightness the past few games, so the Sixers’ 10th game in 19 days seems like an opportune time to rest him. The Sixers will also be without Wilson Chandler (hamstring) and Jimmy Butler (wrist).
Unfortunately, Embiid’s rest will deprive us from one of the most fun matchups in the league - Embiid vs. Jokic. The 23-year-old Nuggets center is currently averaging a career high 19.8 points per game, to go with 10.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists. The Nuggets will be on the second night of a back-to-back when they face the Sixers, but Jokic will be coming off a night of rest. He served a one-game suspension last night for leaving the bench during an altercation on Wednesday night.
With a thinned-out roster, look for Corey Brewer, fresh off signing his second 10-day contract, to start once again for Butler. In Embiid’s absence, we should see another start from Jonah Bolden. Over the past 5 games, Bolden is averaging six points in 13 minutes, and contributing almost two blocks. With two of the big three out, Ben Simmons will need to take control of this team, and continue to play with the aggressive style that he has adopted in recent games.
The Nuggets have a deep and talented roster. The Sixers will need strong performances from their newly promoted starters and the bench if they want to challenge the Nuggets for the win.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Denver Nuggets
When: 9:00 pm EST
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic