Joel Embiid outduels Nikola Jokic; Sixers beat Nuggets 126-121

Before Tuesday night’s showdown between the Philadelphia 76ers and the defending champion Denver Nuggets, 76ers coach Nick Nurse was asked about the head-to-head battle between the top two finishers in the past three MVP races: 76ers center Joel Embiid and Nuggets counterpart Nikola Jokic.

“The card tonight is more than just the big heavyweight matchup,” Nurse said with a smile. “There’s a little bit more going on.”

That might have been true. But the two superstar big men more than lived up to their billing atop the marquee.

And it was Embiid who ultimately landed the knockout blow.

Embiid finished with 41 points, 7 rebounds and 10 assists, while Jokic had 24 points, 19 rebounds — including 11 offensive boards — and 3 assists. But it was Embiid’s 10 consecutive points in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference in a 126-121 victory.

Jokic-Embiid Photo Courtesy: France 24

“I think we finally got some stops defensively,” Embiid said afterward. “We knew that, especially at halftime, after both teams gave up 78 points each, we just knew that the first team to get some stops were going to have a good chance of winning the game, and we were that team.”

Jokic-Embiid Photo Courtesy: Yahoo Sports

Before his 41-point, 10-rebound performance Monday against the Houston Rockets, Embiid had missed three games in a row because knee soreness and seven of Philadelphia’s past nine games because of the sore knee and a sprained ankle. But he wasn’t even listed on the injury report Tuesday against Denver.

“This was a game that went down to the wire,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We came up short. Joel [Embiid] is a hell of a talent.”

It was a fitting conclusion to a wildly entertaining game, one that saw both teams score 78 points in the first half in a game in which defense was, for large portions, seemingly optional.

Embiid Photo Courtesy: BBC

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the combined 156 first-half points were the most in a tie game in the shot clock era (since 1954).

“He’s a really good player,” Jokic said. “He’s playing historic right now. He’s averaging 30-something points every night, and that’s extremely hard to do, especially every night.

“But I mean, I’m not playing against him. I’m playing against Philadelphia. It was a good matchup.”

Said Embiid: “Both of us, we are just like, ‘OK, we just want to play basketball and win some games,’ He deserves [the title of best player] until you knock him [off]. He’s the Finals MVP. Until someone else takes that away, then you can claim that.”

Source: ESPN

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