Are you interested in watching a duel between two of the most talented big men in the league, specifically ones who have had their commitment to conditioning and fitness questioned somewhat regularly by national pundits? If so, have I got a game for you.
For the second time this season, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic will square off. In the first meeting last month in Denver, the two played a prominent role in the final outcome, a 100-97 win for the Nuggets. Playing without Ben Simmons, Philadelphia allowed a 21-point lead to dissipate. Then, down one in the final second, Embiid was called for an offensive foul, a play the official report later reviewed should have been a foul on Nikola Jokic. If the Sixers were run by the Rockets organization, the team would have called for the league to award them the victory. But, alas, it went down as one of Philadelphia’s seven defeats on the season.
The Sixers are catching Denver at a good time. Tonight’s game is the last of a four-game road trip for the Nuggets. Denver crushed the Knicks at the start of the road trip (which is like beating the CPU on rookie mode), but then lost to Boston and Brooklyn. These get-away games before a team returns home are always a tough spot for visiting teams, whereas the Sixers have been home since returning to Philadelphia following their loss in D.C. last Thursday night. Throw in the 12-0 at home factor for the Sixers, and you understand why they are listed as 4-point favorites.
One aspect of the proceedings still up in the air concerns Josh Richardson, who is currently being listed as questionable with his hamstring injury; he has not played since the Sacramento game nearly two weeks ago. If he remains out, Furkan Korkmaz will likely draw another start, but extended minutes will also be granted to Matisse Thybulle. The rookie is coming off a career-high 20-point performance Sunday against Toronto, a game where he knocked down 5-of-8 3s to bring his 3-point percentage on the season up to 44.0%. A 22-year-old knocking down 3s at an above-average clip while playing some of the most disruptive defense in the league? Give me all of that.
Also of interest tonight, will Ben Simmons heed his coach’s call for one 3 and eight free throws per game following the star guard’s exemplary performance against the Cavaliers Saturday night, or will he skew closer toward the zero-3PA, zero-FTA line the subsequent night against the Raptors? I would guess closer to the latter, but fans won’t be too upset if Simmons continues playing his All-NBA Defensive Team-caliber defense, which we have already seen quite directly win a couple games for the Sixers.
We have on our hands a nationally-televised game against a 14-7 team that many picked as a dark horse contender heading into the season. Tonight is the sort of game we yearned for during the long, blowout-filled days of the Process. Enjoy the action.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Denver Nuggets
When: 8:00 pm ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Josh Richardson (questionable - hamstring)