With the bitter taste of two straight defeats lingering in their mouths, the Sixers head to Denver tonight to take on the 5-2 Nuggets. Denver is always a difficult place to play given the altitude adjustments visiting teams have to combat, but add in the fact that the Nuggets are coming off a 54-win season and are many folks’ darkhorse favorite to win the Western Conference this year, and you can understand why the Sixers enter play as 5-point underdogs.
Further complicating matters for the Sixers is that the team will be without star point guard Ben Simmons, set to miss at least this game with the sprained AC joint in his right shoulder. This development will mean more minutes for Raul Neto, who played a season-high 30 minutes against Utah, with big-shot-bomber Furkan Korkmaz presumably moving into the starting lineup as he did against Portland.
The highlight of tonight’s matchup will be in the pivot between Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic. The pair does not have nearly as much on-court history as Embiid does with some of the other big men in the league, but it’s one of the more heated “Who’s better?” arguments constantly swirling in social media circles. Jokic has not gotten off to a hot start to the season — his early averages of 14.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists are all considerably off his numbers from his breakout 2018-19 All-Star season. Hopefully, tonight is not the night the Joker gets back on track.
Elsewhere on the roster, Denver largely ran back the same group from last year’s successful campaign. The major additions to the rotation are former Sixer Jerami Grant, currently seeing 24.1 minutes per game off the bench, and former first-round pick Michael Porter Jr., playing sparingly in his return to the court after sitting out his first year with a back injury.
Of course, the Nuggets also have plenty of young guys with room to grow, headlined by point guard Jamal Murray, who signed a five-year, $170 million extension during the offseason. Murray’s usage rate has steadily risen each of his four years in the league, now up to 25.2 percent. He is averaging a career-high 18.9 points on 45.2 percent shooting from the field and 35.5 percent from 3, along with 3.6 assists.
All-in-all, it’s a tough spot for the Sixers, heading into a difficult environment against a deep, talented opponent, while missing one of their stars in Simmons. Tune in tonight to find out if they can overcome those obstacles to avoid a three-game losing streak.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Denver Nuggets
When: 9:00 pm ET
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Ben Simmons (out - shoulder); Shake Milton (out - knee)
Denver: Gary Harris (probable - ankle); Paul Millsap (probable - head); Bol Bol (out - foot)