Sixers vs Nuggets Joel Embiid loses 47 points in

Sixers vs. Nuggets: Joel Embiid loses 47 points in Sixers’ seventh straight win

Joel Embiid was by no means second best on Saturday afternoon.

The second-ranked MVP for the past two seasons put on an incredible performance at the Wells Fargo Center, leading the Sixers to a 126-119 win over the Nuggets. The team is 32-16 and has now won seven games in a row.

Embiid recorded 47 points, 18 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks.

Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic had 24 points on 8-for-12 shooting, nine assists and eight rebounds for Denver, who fell to 34-16.

The Sixers will wrap up their four-game home stand with games against the Magic on Monday and Wednesday. Here are observations on Embiid’s spectacular day and the Sixers’ win over Denver:

Big star boys dialed in from the jump

One of the most striking aspects of the start of Saturday’s game was literally off the pitch. Because the shot clocks above the baskets at the Wells Fargo Center didn’t work, teams had to rely on a clock stationed in the corner of the baseline floor.

Embiid worked flawlessly. He got Jokic to commit to his pump fake on the Sixers’ first possession before hitting an and-one hoop. Embiid scored the Sixers’ first six points and started 4-4 from the ground, which was a nice setback in terms of efficiency after his 6-for-18 performance in Wednesday’s win over the Nets.

Oddly, Embiid opened 0 for 3 from the foul line. He had come into play at 86.1 percent for the season after shooting 20-20 in his last two games. After two Embiid free throws, Michael Porter Jr. missed his second of three three-pointers in the first quarter. Jokic then started to work out Embiid’s timing a bit, snatching the ball away from him twice as he rose for Springer from mid-range.

The stylistic contrast when Embiid and Jokic meet is fascinating. Both are excellent middle-range shooters and experienced, accomplished big men, but the two go about their business in different ways. Jokic essentially plays water polo on a basketball court. He throws skillful and deceptive passes with ease, making any player he shares the court with a real threat. The Serbian grandman dictates the game in a way that feels leisurely, and he punishes mistakes ruthlessly. Jokic found Bruce Brown on a backdoor cut for a layup late in the first round, taking advantage of James Harden’s inattention.

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers changed Embiid’s normal first-half rotations on Saturday, replacing him in the first quarter with six minutes remaining. Not surprisingly, the Jokic-led Nuggets edged the Sixers by five points during Montrezl Harrell’s initial stint of roughly two and a half minutes.

Upon his return, Embiid hit two top-of-the-key threes, at least preventing the Nuggets from taking complete control of the game. Still, Denver held a nine-point lead after a quarter that Jokic didn’t sit in.

Sixers can’t shake the defensive problems in the first half

The Sixers encouragingly built in Denver’s lead, with Embiid taking on Zeke Nnaji early in the second quarter.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone called a timeout just 17 seconds into the second half after an easy Embiid assist in a Tyrese Maxey three-pointer, but the Sixers continued to score freely. Her offensive rebounds were a big help; Embiid, Matisse Thybulle and Shake Milton all converted tip-ins and the Sixers have reduced their lead to just two points.

However, the minutes between Jokic and Harrell were shaky again. Back-to-back misses from Maxey’s free throws also hurt. The Sixers were No. 1 in the NBA in free-throw percentage (83.0 percent) after a 35-36 game against Brooklyn, but they went 4-10 in the first half. Jokic hit an open three and then sank a turnaround jumper over Harrell. He attacked the matchup with great comfort.

The Sixers’ defense was also poor when Embiid came back. Jamal Murray threw a pass in front of the defense in transition and Aaron Gordon jumped to put it in. Denver’s point guard scored seven points over the final 2:13 of the second quarter, including a wide-open three-pointer caused by a Sixers miscommunication. Harden also scored five points late in the first half, but the Sixers couldn’t top their pathetic defense. They received zero points on five combined field goal attempts in the first half from starting forwards Tobias Harris and PJ Tucker.

The Nuggets accumulated 73 points on 65.9 percent shooting in the first half, a number that (nearly) surpassed the Nets’ mark in Wednesday’s game.

MVP caliber Embiid afternoon

Rivers put Tucker on Jokic to start the third quarter. It was a sensible change considering the Sixers had to disrupt the Nuggets’ offensive rhythm and overall ease. Always ready for star calls, Tucker tried to play his usual tight, physical defense on the ball against Jokic.

Malone picked up a technical foul in the third, apparently because he was arguing that Tucker’s shoulder jabs on Jokic should have been fouls. About a minute later, Tucker got his fourth foul for an altercation with Jokic off the ball. He let officers know he despised the call and was called off for a technical error of his own. Rivers also got a technical during a timeout.

Before that, the Sixers started the second half well on both sides. Jokic sometimes seemed wary of being too aggressive with Embiid’s catches on the nail and helping him pull fouls, so Embiid dumped a few jumpers. His teammates also played with better energy, and the Sixers reduced their lead to 77-73 when Embiid clinched after a pick and roll with Harden.

Malone called timeout and the nuggets restored their desired order. Bruce Brown’s three against a sixers zone possession reduced Denver’s lead to 15 points.

The Sixers provided the immediate response needed. Georges Niang hit back-to-back threes, Embiid hit an and-one layup and the Nuggets suddenly looked uncertain again. Embiid’s intensity and determination not to lose a marquee game was also evident. After stealing a Jokic pass on Denver’s last possession in the third quarter, he made contact with sophomore guard Bones Hyland and got three free throws. Embiid screamed and pumped his fist before taking his foul shots to give the Sixers a 12-0 run to end the third. A tough Maxey runner early in the fourth race reduced the team’s deficit to a single point.

The Sixers briefly lost their momentum and went down on two Hyland free throws 106-98, but Niang hit an important, quick three from an out-of-bounds sideline play to beat the shot clock. Harris then came up with a driving lefty layup and a corner three that tied the game at 106 apiece.

At this point, Embiid entered “actually I’m the MVP” mode. He was automatically isolated against Jokic, drilling back-to-back jumpers in midfield and sending a three-pointer flying off the left wing. Embiid preserved it, and the “MVP” chants actually flowed from the home fans during Denver’s timeout.

On the track, both Tucker and Harris made important defense contributions. Tucker forced a turnover with robust post defense while Harris Jokic was able to nick a steal after a sneak attack high on the key. Harris also nailed a corner three after a clever pass from Embiid. And Tucker timed his only points perfectly, tapping in a miss from Harden after the Nuggets cut the Sixers’ lead to 120-117.

Of course, Embiid had to be the one to stamp the win. His fourth three of the afternoon moved the Sixers up eight points and was fitting punctuation for an MVP-caliber day.