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Sixers look to snap five-game losing streak in Denver

The West Coast trip continues.

Denver Nuggets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Sixers fan base’s Night Watch continues with a 9 p.m. East Coast tipoff tonight in Denver. The Sixers are reeling following a complete blowout loss in Utah. They’re on a five-game skid. The odds are against ending that streak while depleted and facing a 9-5 Nuggets squad. It’s Any Given... *checks calendar* Thursday though.

Here are three noteworthy items ahead of the matchup:

  • Before this season started, this may have been the juiciest game on the Sixers’ 2021 calendar year slate. The reigning MVP winner Nikola Jokic going to battle with MVP runner-up Joel Embiid would’ve made for a must-watch evening. Is Jokic great? Yeah, of course. I’m not an idiot. I do, however, hold ill will to him given the national discourse around him in comparison to my favorite basketball player ever. During this past postseason, I was hoping for a Jokic-Embiid NBA Finals. It would’ve been like the legendary matchup in the 1995 playoffs between Hakeem Olajuwon’s Rockets and David Robinson’s Spurs. The Admiral won MVP, but Hakeem absolutely torched him and eventually won the title. We knew Jokic was going to win and I would’ve died to have seen Embiid win the real war and grab the Finals MVP Award against him. Alas.

Stephen Curry is playing like 2015-2016 Steph, so he’s running away with this year’s MVP race as of now, but Jokic is still crushing it. Jokic’s true shooting percentage is up to 66.5 percent from 64.7 percent in his MVP campaign. He yet again leads the league in Win Shares, VORP and BPM.

While Embiid’s shooting percentage sunk to begin this season, it felt like he was playing a complete level of basketball on both ends of the court in a way we haven’t quite seen previously. His passing has improved immensely. He was legit going for that Defensive Player of the Year Award, something he seems more keen on nabbing than the MVP Award itself.

The basketball community deserved to see these dudes duel.

  • The Sixers are sliding in the standings while Embiid is going through healthy and safety protocols, but the one bright spot during this stretch has been the development of Tyrese Maxey. In his last five games, he’s averaging roughly 24-5-4 while shooting 51.6 percent from the floor and 50.0 percent from deep. That rate on threes obviously isn’t sustainable, but he’s simply looked better as a shooter this year compared to his rookie season.

Maxey is improving exponentially. I want to see this version of Maxey paired with a healthy Embiid as the Sixers make a big 2022 push.

  • Andre Drummond turned in a horrific performance against the Jazz on Tuesday. His touch around the rim leaves a ton to be desired on most nights, but he looked so thoroughly overmatched against Rudy Gobert early. It felt like Gobert swatted Drummond at least 50 times in the first quarter. When Drummond had the ball on the block, I already knew that possession was toast.

Jokic is a better defender than the casual perception of him, but he ain’t regular season Gobert. Drummond has showcased that he’s been a huge upgrade as Embiid’s backup compared to Dwight Howard last year. He needs a bounce-back game. If he can slow down Jokic offensively in even the slightest way too, that’s a win.