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The Joker was on the Sixers tonight in 126-110 defeat in Denver

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With Joel Embiid out, Nikola Jokic had a field day and a triple-double.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

An extremely undermanned Sixers team fell to the Denver Nuggets tonight, 126-110. The Sixers were without All-Star center Joel Embiid, as well as fellow starters Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler. In Butler’s stead, the Sixers started Corey Brewer, fresh off signing his second 10-day contract. Brewer was second in scoring for the Sixers tonight with 20 points, in addition to his 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 steals.

We were deprived of the Embiid vs. Nikola Jokic matchup, but the Joker didn’t use Embiid’s absence as an excuse to take a night off. He put up 17 points in the first quarter alone, and finished the game with 32 points. He recorded his 7th triple-double of the season, contributing 18 rebounds and 10 assists as well.

With a depleted bench, the Sixers would need what reserves they did have to step up in a big way if they were going to contend in this game. Mike Muscala came off the bench firing, sinking his first three shots from beyond the arc and finishing the game with 10 points. Shake Milton played 20 minutes in his 11th NBA game, shooting 60 percent from 3, and finished with 11 points. He was the only Sixers player to have a positive plus-minus. Amir Johnson was inserted back into the rotation tonight, and he made the most of his minutes. After a strong first half, Johnson started the second half in place of Jonah Bolden, and finished with five points, four rebounds, and four assists.

With Embiid out, Ben Simmons’s role as ball handler was delegated to more traditional point guards like T.J. McConnell. Simmons finished with only 4 assists, but provided 12 rebounds and 19 points. Simmons was unable to finish a number of shots at the rim contributing to his FG% of 35.3 percent for the game. A bright spot in Simmons’ shooting was his work at the foul line; he attempted 10 free throws in the game, hitting 7 of them. Coach Brett Brown has said that he wants Simmons to make 70 percent of his free throws this season, so that benchmark was accomplished tonight. On the season, Simmons is shooting 57.6% from the line.

The Sixers will have a few days to rest, as they don’t face the Los Angeles Lakers until Tuesday night. Both Embiid and Butler are expected to play in that matchup.

Other Notes

  • Ben Simmons took his first 3-pointer of the season tonight, a near-mid-court heave to end the third quarter.
  • JJ Redick finished the game with a team-high 22 points and shot 40 percent from the 3-point line.
  • In addition to Jokic, the Nuggets had five other players who scored in double digits, including three off the bench. Mason Plumlee finished with 17 points and was perfect from the field.
  • T.J. McConnell and Amir Johnson were the only Sixers to record a block in tonight’s game.