The Sixers have now lost 3 games in a row after last nights 116-111 loss to the Denver Nuggets. The Sixers were without Joel Embiid and James Harden, but still put out a good effort. With only 7 games left, its looking like the two seed is out of reach.
A Hard Fought Game
When it was announced that both Harden and Embiid were out it was easy to chalk this up as a “scheduled loss”. We all know how much Doc Rivers loves a scheduled loss. But the game turned out to be anything but that. Tyrese Maxey was able to carry the Sixers’ offense in the first half with 25 points. He was able to get downhill very easily on the Nuggets’ defense and took advantage of Jokic’s lack of rim protection. He finished the game with 29 points as it seemed like the Nuggets tailored their defense toward Maxey in the second half.
To the dismay of Sixers fans, Doc Rivers started Dewayne Dedmon in Embiids’ absence. Dedmon got some playing time in the game against the Suns, and it seems as of now he is ahead of Paul Reed in the depth chart. Dedmon finished with 0 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 assist. The backup center has been a problem for the Sixers since Embiid came into the league, and Dedmon is not the answer.
Paul Reed on the other hand had one of his best games of the season. He finished with 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 assist. Reed gave the team a jolt of energy in the 4th quarter that helped start their 22-6 run. Reed should be the only backup center come playoff time.
While they ultimately fell short, the late 4th quarter comeback showed something this team has had all season, heart. This team is never out of a game because they hardly ever stop playing. Down 16 in the 4th quarter, with your two best players hurt most teams pack it in, but this team fought. I have had a feeling all year that this team could be different than teams in the past, and last night was another example of why that just might be.
Both Embiid and Harden missed yesterday’s game as they are nursing injuries. Harden has missed the last 4 games with an Achilles injury while Embiid missed his first with a calf injury. I am trying very hard not to, but I am starting to worry about these injuries. With just 7 games left in the regular season, it’s hard not to be a little nervous. One of the biggest things that have hampered the Sixers in the past has been injuries, and to have injuries to the most important players on the team is truly terrifying.
The reports were that in the shoot-around yesterday Embiid left early because of the pain. It makes you wonder why the Sixers organization played him in a back-to-back game vs the Suns. With Embiids’ history of injuries in the past you would think they would prioritize health down the stretch. Now he can not finish the shoot-around and we are staring down the number 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs are the current 4 seed and are only 1.5 games back of the Sixers. If Embiid or Harden miss any more time, they could pass them in the upcoming days.
The NBA’s MVP award has become the most toxic award in all of the sports. It has become impossible to have a conversation about the award. The standards for the award have also changed by year and by player. When Joel Embiid had a 47-point performance in a win against Jokic and the Nuggets earlier in the season, Embiid still was not seen as the MVP because the MVP award is not decided by one game. If the MVP award is not decided by one game, then why at some sports books this morning is Jokic now the favorite?
After just one game?
Many media members also said that Embiid should not be the MVP because he cared too much in that game and Jokic does not care. But while Embiid is hurt, Jokic has now retaken the award because Embiid is soft, is afraid to play against Jokic, and is never available to play. So when Embiid plays well against Jokic he cares too much, but when he doesn’t play he doesn’t care enough? Everyone always tells Embiid that he does not get the respect he deserves in the NBA because he does not have postseason success. So when he and the team prioritize his health for the postseason over an MVP game, he still gets ripped on a national level. Not to mention Jokic and Embiid have a very similar playoff history.
When the Denver Nuggets played another MVP-caliber player in Giannis and the Bucks, Jokic sat out of the game. Where was the backlash then? Where was the swing in MVP odds? Where were the missing signs with Jokics’ faces on them? There was none because Embiid and Jokic are held to different standards.
Nikola Jokic has started this notion that it is ok to not care about individual awards, and he is rewarded for it. While Jokic does care about these awards, he is portrayed that he does not. Individual awards are what create legacies, and it’s okay to care about them. Durant, Giannis, Jordan, Lebron, and Kobe all cared about the award, just go watch their acceptance speeches. But since it is Embiid its a problem.
Embiid’s most famous tweet says it best, “They hate the Process.”