Joel Embiid was not second finest in any manner Saturday afternoon.
The MVP runner-up the final two seasons turned in an unimaginable efficiency at Wells Fargo Middle to raise the Sixers to a 126-119 win over the Nuggets. The staff is 32-16 and has now received seven straight video games.
Embiid recorded 47 factors, 18 rebounds, 5 assists, three steals and two blocks.
Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic had 24 factors on 8-for-12 taking pictures, 9 assists and eight rebounds for Denver, who fell to 34-16.
The Sixers will end their four-game homestand with video games in opposition to the Magic on Monday and Wednesday. Listed here are observations on Embiid’s spectacular day and the Sixers’ win over Denver:
Star huge guys dialed in from the soar
Some of the noticeable features early in Saturday’s recreation was, in a literal sense, off the courtroom. With the shot clocks above the hampers not performing at Wells Fargo Middle, the groups needed to depend on a clock stationed on the nook of the baseline ground.
Embiid was working simply advantageous. He acquired Jokic to decide to his pump faux on the Sixers’ first possession earlier than scoring an and-one hoop. Embiid posted the Sixers’ first six factors and started 4 for 4 from the ground, which was a pleasant bounce again efficiency-wise after his 6-for-18 efficiency in Wednesday’s win over the Nets.
Oddly, Embiid opened 0 for 3 from the foul line. He’d entered the sport at 86.1 p.c on the season after taking pictures 20 for 20 over his final two video games. Following two Embiid free throw misses, Michael Porter Jr. drained his second of three first-quarter threes. Jokic then began to determine Embiid’s timing a bit, stripping him off the ball twice as he rose for mid-range jumpers.
The stylistic distinction is fascinating when Embiid and Jokic match up. Each are glorious mid-range shooters and expert, savvy huge males, however the two go about their enterprise in distinct methods. Jokic primarily performs water polo on a basketball court. He throws effortlessly deft and misleading passes and makes each participant he shares the courtroom with an actual risk. The Serbian huge man dictates the sport in a way that feels leisurely, and he punishes lapses ruthlessly. Jokic discovered Bruce Brown on a back-door minimize for a layup late within the first, capitalizing on Harden’s inattentiveness.
Sixers head coach Doc Rivers modified up Embiid’s regular rotations within the first half Saturday, subbing him out with six minutes left within the first quarter. Unsurprisingly, the Jokic-led Nuggets outscored the Sixers by 5 factors throughout Montrezl Harrell’s preliminary stint of roughly two and a half minutes.
Upon returning, Embiid hit two top-of-the-key threes and not less than saved the Nuggets from seizing full management of the sport. Nonetheless, after 1 / 4 wherein Jokic didn’t sit, Denver had a nine-point benefit.
Sixers can’t shake defensive woes in first half
The Sixers encouragingly ate into Denver’s lead with Embiid dealing with Zeke Nnaji early within the second quarter.
Nuggets head coach Michael Malone referred to as a timeout simply 17 seconds into the second interval following a easy Embiid help on a Tyrese Maxey three, however the Sixers continued to attain freely. Their offensive rebounding was a giant assist; Embiid, Matisse Thybulle and Shake Milton all transformed tip-ins and the Sixers acquired their deficit as little as two factors.
Nonetheless, the Jokic vs. Harrell minutes have been shaky once more. Again-to-back Maxey free throw misses additionally damage. The Sixers had been No. 1 within the NBA in free throw proportion (83.0 p.c) after a 35-for-36 recreation in opposition to Brooklyn, however they went 4 for 10 within the first half. Jokic made an open three after which sunk a turnaround jumper over Harrell. He attacked the matchup with nice consolation.
The Sixers’ protection was poor when Embiid got here again in, too. Murray lobbed a go in transition forward of the protection and Aaron Gordon leaped to put it in. Denver’s level guard posted seven factors over the ultimate 2:13 of the second quarter, together with a wide-open three-pointer created by a Sixers miscommunication. Harden additionally scored 5 factors late within the first half, however the Sixers couldn’t outshoot their woeful protection. They acquired zero factors from beginning forwards Tobias Harris and P.J. Tucker within the first half on 5 mixed field-goal makes an attempt.
The Nuggets racked up 73 first-half factors on 65.9 p.c taking pictures, a determine that (narrowly) exceeded the Nets’ mark in Wednesday’s recreation.
MVP-caliber Embiid afternoon
Rivers put Tucker on Jokic to begin the third quarter. It was an affordable change given the Sixers’ have to disrupt the Nuggets’ offensive rhythm and normal ease. Tucker at all times is up for star assignments, and he tried to play his common tight, bodily on-ball protection in opposition to Jokic.
Malone picked up a technical foul within the third, seemingly for arguing that Tucker’s shoulder bumps on Jokic ought to’ve been fouls. A couple of minute later, Tucker acquired his fourth foul for off-ball grappling with Jokic. He let the officers know he despised the decision and was whistled for a technical of his personal. Rivers acquired a technical throughout a timeout, too.
Earlier than all of that, the Sixers started the second half nicely on each ends. Jokic appeared cautious at instances of being too aggressive on Embiid’s catches on the nail and serving to him draw fouls, so Embiid drained a few jumpers. His teammates performed with higher power, too, and the Sixers trimmed their deficit to 77-73 on an Embiid lay-in off of a pick-and-roll with Harden.
Malone referred to as timeout and the Nuggets restored their desired order. Bruce Brown’s three in opposition to a possession of Sixers zone grew Denver’s lead again to fifteen factors.
The Sixers delivered the mandatory fast response. Georges Niang made back-to-back threes, Embiid scored an and-one layup, and the Nuggets out of the blue appeared unsteady once more. Embiid’s depth and willpower to not lose a marquee recreation was apparent, too. After stealing a Jokic go on Denver’s closing third-quarter possession, he drew contact in opposition to second-year guard Bones Hyland and acquired himself three free throws. Embiid screamed and pump his fist earlier than making three free throws that gave the Sixers a 12-0 run to finish the third. A troublesome Maxey runner early within the fourth minimize the staff’s deficit to a single level.
The Sixers briefly misplaced their momentum and went down 106-98 on two Hyland free throws, however Niang hit an necessary, quick-release three off of a sideline out-of-bounds play to beat the shot. Harris then stepped up with a driving lefty layup and a nook three that tied the sport at 106 apiece.
At that time, Embiid entered, “Truly, I am the MVP” mode. He was computerized in isolation in opposition to Jokic, drilling back-to-back mid-range jumpers and letting a 3 fly from the left wing. Embiid canned it and the “MVP” chants certainly flowed from the house followers throughout Denver’s timeout.
Down the stretch, each Tucker and Harris made key defensive contributions. Tucker compelled a turnover with sturdy submit protection, whereas Harris swiped a steal after a sneak assault on the prime of the important thing. Harris additionally nailed a nook three after a sensible go from Embiid. And Tucker picked the proper time for his solely factors, tipping in a Harden miss after the Nuggets had minimize the Sixers’ result in 120-117.
In fact, Embiid needed to be the one to stamp the victory. His fourth three of the afternoon put the Sixers up eight factors and was a becoming punctuation to an MVP-caliber day.