The Denver Nuggets (34-15) continue their Eastern Conference road trip with a stop against the Philadelphia 76ers (31-16). The teams will be meeting during the NBA’s “Rivals Week” and is nationally televised on ABC. The Nuggets-Sixers “Rivalry” is almost entirely from the conversations around Nikola Jokić vs Joel Embiid, something that is all too prevalent with Jokić being selected as an All-Star Starter while Embiid was not.

Both teams are relatively healthy, despite a dreary injury report, both teams should have almost all their starters. MPJ returns to being questionable after missing some time with “Personal Reasons”. Jokić was upgraded to Probable along with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jamal Murray was upgraded to Questionable after all missing the last game.

The Essentials:

Who: The Denver Nuggets (34-15, 12-11 Away) @ the Philadelphia 76ers (31-16, 18-7 Home)

When: 1:00 pm (MST)

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia PA

How to Watch/Listen: ABC or 92.5 fm Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Liberty Ballers

Expected Starting Lineups

DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Bruce Brown, PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokić

PHI: PG James Harden, SG De’Anthony Melton, SF PJ Tucker, PF Tobias Harris, C Joel Embiid


DEN: Michael Porter Jr. (Personal Reasons) Questionable, Jamal Murray (Hip) Questionable, Bruce Brown (Knee) Questionable, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Wrist) Probable, Nikola Jokić (Hamstring) Probable, and Jack White (Abductor) Out.

PHI: Joel Embiid (Foot) Questionable

Three Things to Watch for:

Jokić vs Embiid

Not only is this a fantastic matchup in a pure basketball sense, there are larger narratives at play here. Obviously, Jokić has won the last 2 MVP awards over Embiid, but he was now selected as an all-star starter while Embiid was not. I reckon that Joel Embiid will come out of the gates firing, he will probably will try to go at the Joker in the post within the first few possessions of the game and try to set a tone for the rest of the game. The Nuggets won the last meeting between the two but, both teams look different now.

Nuggets defense on Embiid and Harden

The Sixers like to do a lot of 1 on 1 attacking, whether it’s through Embiid or Harden. It works well for them as most teams struggle to stop Embiid in the post, but, the Nuggets have a great matchup for him down low. My only concern is that Jokić will have to exert so much energy on defense that his offensive ability will drop because of it. Harden is another player who seems to thrive in isolation and will likely take the possession into his own hands at a few points in the game. If Murray can hold his own against Harden isolations, if given the chance, I will be impressed with his injury recovery.

A Clash between Titans

These two teams are some of the best their respective conferences have to offer, while they may not be favored to face off in the Finals, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. There is a very similar roster creation around a dominant center in both situations, the blueprint for playing next to Embiid to Jokić is different but not as different as you’d expect. The Sixers are currently the Eastern Conference 2 seed while Denver is the Western Conference’s 1 seed. Both teams come in as top 5 in each conference in opposing points allowed, not only are these teams dominant offensively, they are even more dominant defensively.