Philadelphia is coming off an ugly win on Sunday when it had to overcome another slow start and a 17-point first half deficit to defeat the lowly Orlando Magic. Joel Embiid struggled from the field, shooting just 9-of-28 but led the way with 35 points, 16 rebounds and 7 assists.
Tobias Harris had his best outing since the James Harden trade, dropping 26 points, including a massive go-ahead three-pointer with just 31.2 seconds left in OT.
With the win, the Sixers pulled to within 2.5 games of the Miami Heat for the top spot in the ultra-competitive Eastern Conference. Even though every game is a big one in terms of the standings for Philadelphia, we may see Embiid get a much-needed night off in the second of back-to-back games.
If Embiid does sit this one out, it will mean fans didn’t get to see the two best big men in the NBA square off for the second time this season. Embiid missed the Sixers’ 103-89 win in Denver last November due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Oddsmakers have Embiid (-145) listed as the favorite to win the NBA MVP Award this season, with Jokic (+170) listed just behind him.
If Embiid doesn’t play, Philadelphia will need Harden to get back on track on the offensive end after struggling over the previous three games. The 10-time All-Star has connected on just 13 of his last 51 field goal attempts. However, although Harden hasn’t been great shooting the ball recently, the Sixers are 6-1 with him in the lineup.
The Nuggets are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. After losing the last two games, Denver sits at 40-28, good for the sixth and final guaranteed postseason position.
Here’s a look at the two teams’ stats this season:
Sixers: 108.5 ppg, 106.5 points allowed, 42.2 rebounds, 111.7 offensive rating.
Nuggets: 111.1 ppg, 108.5 points allowed, 44.2 rebounds, 112.6 offensive rating.
Philadelphia’s schedule will be challenging for the next couple of weeks. Tonight’s game begins a nine-game stretch where the Sixers will face six teams holding a playoff spot, while the remaining three (Raptors, Clippers, Lakers) are sitting in a play-in position.