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In Embiid-Jokic showdown, Sixers fall to Nuggets

Denver Nuggets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Sixers welcomed reigning MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets to Philly Monday Night. In a game that decided the MVP award and banished the loser from Monday Night RAW forever, the Sixers ran out of gas as they fell to the Nuggets, 114-110. Joel Embiid was brilliant, with 34 points on 69.7 true shooting percentage, and James Harden had a stat line of 24-9-11, but it wasn’t enough. Here are some observations from Monday’s frustrating loss.

First Half

  • This was a much different start than the previous two games for the Sixers. Embiid looked ready for this game from the jump, driving by Jokic for a dunk to start the game’s scoring. Embiid dazzled in the first, both from the paint and from beyond the arc with 12 points in the frame.
  • Matisse Thybulle had an excellent start, swiping four steals and going a perfect 4-of-4 from the field, easily his most productive quarter offensively. It really is night and day for this offense when Thybulle can be useful. James Harden spread the ball around and attacked with his floater, and Tobias Harris was aggressive and decisive as the Sixers put up 37 first-quarter points.
  • Philly continued to generate good looks in the second, but started the quarter shooting 1-of-9 from the field. The Nuggets struggled from the field as well, not making their first three until around the eight-minute mark of the second.
  • This block by Matisse Thybulle. My goodness, what a half
  • It was odd to see DeAndre Jordan finish the half due to three fouls on Embiid. Denver would end the quarter on a 10-0 (7-0 when DAJ entered) run to cut the lead to five. Embiid getting a fourth foul certainly isn’t ideal, however the risk didn’t seem worth it.

Second Half

  • Denver started the third taking advantage of the Sixers’ poor transition defense. The Sixers have been too slow getting back and tonight was no different. The Nuggets scored 22 fast break points to just 11 for the Sixers.
  • Embiid got hot again in the third, exploding for 13 points in the quarter, despite sitting a bit earlier than he normally would. James Harden was able to keep the Sixers afloat, with an 11-point quarter of his own, pushing the Sixers’ lead to seven entering the fourth.
  • The Nuggets came storming back on a 22-9 run, starting the fourth quarter shooting 8-of-11 from the field. As expected from the prolific Denver offense, Bones Hyland and DeMarcus Cousins rained down threes. The Sixers’ inability to take advantage of the minutes Jokic spent on the bench hurt them all night.
  • As frustrating as this game was, the only thing that matters is the health of Joel Embiid. Embiid took a nasty fall with about three minutes left after a hard foul from JaMychal Green. The play was ruled a flagrant and Embiid stayed in the game, but still a scary sight.
  • The Sixers just continued to struggle to convert open looks down the stretch. Harden and Embiid getting to the line was the only consistent form of scoring for Philly. They had every chance to put the Nuggets away, but let this one slip away.