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Reigning MVP Embiid drops 41 as Sixers win shootout over Jokic, Nuggets

Joel Embiid was outstanding as the Sixers took down Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets in a wildly entertaining game at The Center Tuesday.

Denver Nuggets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Reports of anyone ducking this game were greatly exaggerated.

The Sixers knocked off the Denver Nuggets 126-121 Tuesday night for the entire NBA to see.

Joel Embiid dropped 41 points, shooting 13-of-22 from the field, along with 10 assists and seven rebounds, an unexpected way for his streak of games with 30 points and 10 rebounds to end.

Tyrese Maxey went for 25 points and nine assists of his own. Tobias Harris had 24 points shooting 8-of-10 from the floor, while Nikola Jokic put up 25 points and 19 rebounds for Denver.

Here are some thoughts at the buzzer.

First Quarter

  • Unsurprisingly, the Sixers opened up this game with Tobias Harris guarding Jokic, with Embiid roaming off of Aaron Gordon. This made Embiid have to choose between closing out on shooters or staying in the paint to keep Jokic off the glass. Denver made them pay from deep early, shooting 4-of-7 from beyond the arc in the first.
  • Nico Batum hit his most impressive quick-release three yet, catching a pass that Embiid nearly sailed into the fourth row, and putting up a three with his feet barely in bounds. Perhaps that gave Embiid confidence, because he found a cutting Kelly Oubre Jr.
  • He finished with five assists in the first to go along with the 14-point first quarter points. He made a couple of jumpers early and was in control offensively from there. Both teams shot well over 60% from the field, as the Sixers trailed by two points after an explosive opening frame.

Second Quarter

  • The difference in how Patrick Beverley’s offense looked in October vs. how it does now is truly night and day. He looked incapable of making shots, and now is sometimes the guy that can get the offense moving again when it’s in a rut. He had eight in the first half tonight, making his first three shots from the field.
  • Defense was such a premium at the start of this one that the Sixers sat back in a zone quite often at the start of the quarter, even when Embiid checked back into the game. On top of stopping no one on the perimeter, the Sixers put Denver in the bonus just four minutes into the quarter. The Nuggets took 19 free throws in the half.
  • On top of that, they had to deal with keeping the best in the league off the offensive glass. Seven of the eight rebounds Jokic pulled down were on the offensive end of the floor. Philly struggled to end defensive possessions all half.
  • As successful as Embiid’s isolations were, his two-man game with Maxey is really what bent Denver’s defense. Something Maxey’s done a lot this week is anticipating how aggressive defenses are in trying to break it up, then attack once the defense has committed.
  • Philly finally cobbled together a couple stops, which gave them fast breaks that helped them briefly go in front. Jamal Murray capped off an absurd half of offense by beating the buzzer with a three with two defenders in his face, tying the game at 78 at the half.

Third Quarter

  • So many of Embiid’s assists tonight came as a result of the Nuggets just leaving Maxey wide open. They were aggressive in doubling Embiid at the elbow, which often left Maxey all alone out on the wing. Maxey hadn’t had as many chances to take threes off the catch with Embiid out of the lineup, but he capitalized on those chances tonight.
  • Embiid still did a good job of finding the rest of his teammates as well, mostly from the corner. Philly made three of its first four threes of the second half — all of them were assisted by Embiid. Even when Denver got their hands on the ball, it still found its target.
  • Nico Batum’s versatility is always surprising given his age and stature. He was the primary defender on Murray, but found himself swatting away Jokic and ripping offensive rebounds out of his hands.
  • Philly had a chance to push a lead into double digits, but allowed a Nuggets run at the end of the quarter instead. The Sixers went the last 3:58 of the quarter without scoring. Embiid trying to do too much and some record-scratch moments from Oubre were the culprits during this stretch. Denver retook a five-point lead heading into the fourth.

Fourth Quarter

  • Maxey struggled for the first time all game when Embiid went to the bench during this stretch, but the offense was buoyed by Tobi Time. The first three field goals of the quarter were turnaround jumpers for Harris, as his isolations were all the Sixers could get going at the time.
  • Despite those struggles, Embiid was able to check back into a tie game thanks to a four-point play from Marcus Morris Sr. The momentum in the building fully swung back towards the Sixers when Embiid capped off this fast break with a euro step.
  • The fourth quarter is as good a time as any to finally start getting some stops. Denver went over three minutes without scoring as the Sixers made their run. Philly caused four turnovers over this stretch, including a shot-clock violation.
  • Both offenses were worn out, because the Sixers went the last four minutes of the game without making a field goal. They didn’t need to though, as Denver’s offense was equally shot.
  • The Sixers will have a couple days off before they hit the road again. Their next contest is Friday night in Orlando, where they’ll take on the Magic at 7 p.m. ET.

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