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Friday, May 20, 2022

Nikola Jokic leads Nuggets to beat Joel Embiid, Sixers

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PHILADELPHIA–The Philadelphia 76ers were looking to build on an overtime victory on the road Sunday when they returned home to host reigning league MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. It’s been a couple of years since Jokic and Joel Embiid squared off and all eyes were on that matchup.

Embiid and Jokic played all night and the crowd was really excited and involved in this early one that allowed the Sixers to build a lead of up to 19. The ball was spinning and they were in control. Jokic then led a spirited comeback for the Nuggets as they were able to take the lead and ultimately win 114-110 on the road. Jokic had 22 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists, while Bones Hyland had 21 off the bench for Denver.

Embiid led the way with 34 points and nine rebounds, James Harden had 24 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists, Tobias Harris had 10 points and six rebounds, Matisse Thybulle had nine and six steals, and Tyrese Maxey added 19.

Here are the player ratings after a tough loss at home:

James Harden: B

The Beard was looking for driving opportunities in this one as he looks to get out of this mini-slump he’s been throwing the basketball into. His first basket was a shot at the basket, as he was able to find an easy driving lane and was also making plays for others. It helps that Thybulle was so active off the ball, allowing Harden room to drive. However, after the fast start, Harden was passive as he drove looking to pass rather than shoot. It wasn’t until the third quarter when Denver made another run that they began to get aggressive with their offense. As an elite playmaker, Harden is much better for this team when he looks for his own offense and goes after it that way.

Tyrese Maxey: B

The ball was moving very well for Philly early on and that set the tone for them on the offensive end. When the ball bounces around the perimeter, his offense takes another step forward. Maxey benefited from this as he was able to knock down an open 3-pointer and also found Thybulle in the corner for his 3-pointer. Keeping Maxey active helps this team a lot on the offensive end of the floor. In this, too, there were other opportunities for him. He just needs to take advantage of them more often.

Matisse Thybulle: A.

The Sixers engaged Thybulle early in this one when he came off a screen with Harden and was able to dunk. He followed that up with a corner 3-pointer and was active on the defensive end and passing lanes. He was detrimental to everything Denver tried to execute on their offensive end. He had three steals in the first seven minutes of the game, as he was all over the place at that end. This is the kind of game the Sixers need from Thybulle if they’re going to continue as a starter. He needs to be the one who makes the difference on the defensive end.

Tobias Harris: C+

After a very good performance in Orlando, Harris was aggressive against the Nuggets. They put Will Barton in early and Harris immediately went to work in the post and then knocked down a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer which is always a good sign for him. After the fast start to the game, he was pretty quiet as Harden started to get going, but what Harris does for this team on the offensive end has come in handy the last two games. He was also very good on the defensive end doing a lot of the little things that don’t show up on the scoring chart. Right now, he is their third or sometimes fourth best player. Time to judge him accordingly.

Joel Embiid: A+

It was clear that this game meant something to Embiid. The chance to make a statement against the league’s reigning MVP in Jokic seemed to turn him on a bit. Jokic blocked his shot early, but then Embiid kicked it at full speed and was efficient on it. He was making hard shots, he was driving Jokic to the basket and he was much more active to start this one compared to previous games. The big guy was aggressive all night and it wasn’t just Jokic, he also chased DeMarcus Cousins. The focus and assertiveness that Embiid played with in this one was truly something to behold. He was excellent in this one.

Georges Niang: C

Unlike Orlando, Niang couldn’t drop much, but he was able to hit the glass and his pass and the Nuggets had to pay attention to his shot. His activity level is very helpful for the bench drive and he is a smart player. Philly just needs him to make strides on the defensive end. He too had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds and hit the side of the backboard. He grabbed the rebound but missed a backspin

Danny Green: D-

Having Green back is only useful from a conversation standpoint. He is always working to get his teammates in the right position and that makes things go well. Also, he may have missed a step on the offensive end, but having him there as a throwing threat is a huge help for this team in terms of space. Eventually, though, you’ll have to start producing. The Sixers need his pitch off the bench.

DeAndre Jordan 😀

Jordan’s minutes in this one were tough. As soon as Embiid went to the bench, the Nuggets seized the opportunity and scrambled to get back into the game a bit. It’s games like this that should make Philly watch out when it comes to backup center minutes. He was much better in his second stage when he lobbed and blocked Jokic from advancing on him. However, he was not very good in the second half.

Shake Milton: B

A very good sign for the Sixers is that Milton knocked down a 3-pointer in his early days. If the Sixers can get some consistency from deep for Milton, it would be a boon to the bench unit. He only played eight minutes, but it was a solid eight minutes.

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