Today marks the last day of NBA Rivals Week, and fittingly, the league decided to place the players who have finished first and second in MVP voting each of the last three seasons on a nationally-televised center stage. The Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets met just 11 days ago, and Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic lived up to the hype in a true clash of the titans. Embiid went off for 41 points, seven rebounds, and 10 assists, while Jokic countered with 25 points, 19 rebounds, and three assists. More importantly, though, Embiid’s Sixers got the W, outscoring Denver by 10 points in the fourth quarter to pull ahead for the 126-121 victory.
Now, the two teams are right back at it in the mile-high air of Denver. The Sixers had a six-game win streak snapped on Thursday night in an entirely lackluster effort against the Pacers, who were without Tyrese Haliburton. To be fair, the Sixers are dealing with a number of injury concerns of their own. De’Anthony Melton and Robert Covington are out again. Tyrese Maxey (ankle), Tobias Harris (illness), and Mo Bamba (knee) are questionable, and Marcus Morris Sr. is probable again, but missed Thursday night with plantar fasciitis. At this point, Joel Embiid is basically Jon Snow standing down the hordes alone in the Battle of the Bastards. At least no one will say Joel is ducking opponents in big road games ever again. Right? ... Right? We’ll see if any help joins him with Philadelphia sitting third in the East at 29-14, just two games up on the hard-charging Knicks, who have won five straight.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets are coming off a stinker of their own, a 38-point loss to the Knicks on Thursday. That was the last contest in a five-game East Coast road trip for Denver, and those getaway games are always a bad spot for teams. Like Philadelphia, the Nuggets are in third place in their conference, with a 31-15 record. Their injury report is a little cleaner, however, with Nikola Jokic (eye), Jamal Murray (shin), Aaron Gordon (shoulder), and Reggie Jackson (toe) all probable. The only regular rotation member out is reserve Julian Strawther. With home court advantage and the Nuggets likely having a healthier squad taking the court, Denver is currently 4.5-point favorites as of this writing, per DraftKings.
This will be the ninth meeting with Embiid and Jokic taking the court against each other, with Joel and the Sixers 6-2 thus far. We’ll see if Philadelphia can stay on the winning end of things or if they’ll be unable to catch their breath at altitude.