Joel Embiid and the 76ers defeated back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets today 126-119. The 76ers were down 15 at halftime but rode Embiid’s 47 points and 18 rebounds to the victory. After being the runner-up in MVP voting each of the last two seasons to Jokic, it was clear Embiid wanted to make a statement.
It was clear the Sixers wanted to get Embiid going early and often. Embiid started the game 4/4 from the field with Jokic as his primary defender. One of the things people try to push for Jokic is that he is a better defender than your eyes will tell you. It was obvious the Sixers viewed Jokic as a lesser defender as they were trying to target him with switches. Harden had some success going to the rim when Jokic was switched onto him, and the team as a whole was not challenged at the rim at all. It showed up with tip-backs. The Sixers were able to get a ton of second chance tip backs because Jokic wasn’t getting rebounds, and wasn’t a threat to block their shots.
Embiid took the snub of not being an All-Star starter to heart and wanted to make a statement today, and he did that. Embiid showed today why he is one of the best players in the NBA. His game is unlike any center the NBA has ever seen. He shot 4-7 from three-point range while also having 5 assists and 2 blocks. Oh and of course 47 points. His overall two-way game might be the best in the NBA, and sometimes it gets taken for granted.
When it comes to MVP voting Embiid is currently second to Jokic according to NBA.com. After a game like today, there is no possible way anyone can say Joel Embiid is not currently the MVP of the NBA. Jokic had a good game with 24 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists. The consistency with which he almost has triple-doubles from the center position is amazing, but he got completely dominated today. Jokic only scored two points the whole 4th quarter while mostly being guarded by a way smaller P.J. Tucker. Jokic also had 7 turnovers today. Basketball is a rare sport where two players can face off somewhat one on one on both sides of the game and Embiid dominated Jokic on both ends of the floor today. This should be a statement game that we look back on when he is lifting the Michael Jordan MVP Trophy these playoffs.
This game was massive because of the Embiid and Jokic matchup, but it was also a big test for both teams. The Nuggets are the current 1 seed in the Western Conference and were a big test too see where the 76ers are at. The 76ers have won 20 of their last 24 games including wins over the Nets, Clippers, Lakers, Warriors, Nuggets, and a few other playoff teams. Currently the Sixers are the Eastern Conferences number 2 seed, but with a Celtics loss tonight can move into the 1 seed. Many fans, including myself, have been hesitant to believe in a 76ers team because of playoff failures in the past. Well, it might be time to start believing.