The Denver Nuggets start a tough five-game road trip filled with contenders (and Washington) by matching up with the Philadelphia 76ers tonight. Nikola Jokic is coming off another Sombor-Double in his previous game, coming up one assist shy of a triple-double in defeating the Indiana Pacers, while Joel Embiid had 41 points and 10 rebounds to help his squad defeat the Rockets. The Sixers will be on the second half of a back-to-back, though, while Denver has all five starters listed on the injury report, so there’s no telling what the actual lineups will be at this point. Whomever takes the court for these teams should provide a tremendous matchup in the first meeting between these Finals contenders this year. Here’s hoping both squads can field a full complement of starters in this potential June preview.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (28-13) at Philadelphia 76ers (25-13)

When: 5:30 PM MST

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy….unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. TNT. NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 950AM.

Rival blog: Liberty Ballers

Injury Report: DENVER: Nikola Jokic – questionable (hip strain), Jamal Murray – questionable (bilateral tibia inflammation), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – questionable (cervicothoracic strain), Aaron Gordon – questionable (heel strain) Michael Porter Jr. – questionable (knee inflammation), Julian Strawther – out (knee), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee), Hunter Tyson – out (G-League), Jalen Pickett – out (G-League); PHILADELPHIA: Joel Embiid – questionable (contender), Mo Bamba – questionable (knee), Kenneth Lofton Jr. – questionable (shoulder), Jaden Springer – questionable (ankle tendinitis) De’Anthony Melton – out (back), Robert Covington – out (knee)

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: The injury report

In theory, this is a matchup of juggernauts. Denver is the defending champion, Philly is the team that badly wants the throne and has the personnel to take it. Each team is third in its conference and looking to secure home court for at least the first round if not longer, and every win matters. In practice, this may not be the measuring-stick game the NBA is hoping to have for TNT’s national audience. Every member of Denver’s starting lineup is questionable, while Embiid just played his first game back after missing several for a knee injury and may be on a restriction for this back-to-back for the 76ers. Fans of both teams are dying for this to have a Game 7 Finals intensity but may have to settle for a skirmish rather than a war depending on who is playing and how limited they might be. Regardless, the injury report may have more to say about who wins this contest than just the 15-man rosters would suggest.

The thing to remember: Denver’s reserves have been here before

The Nuggets went on the road to play the Clippers on November 27th, and without Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray or Aaron Gordon they still came out with the victory. Reggie Jackson had 35 points and 13 assists, while center DeAndre Jordan put up 21 and 13 rebounds. It’s not the grudge match that Jackson and Jordan had with their old team, but Denver is still the more-rested team regardless of who is on the court tonight. Tyrese Maxey has been incredible with or without Embiid, and Joel himself is an absolute MVP-level monster especially if the Nuggets are without Jokic, but Denver steps up when short-handed. They’ll need all of it against Philadelphia even if all of Denver’s starters can go, but don’t go into this game expecting the Nuggets to toss it away as a rest game before they face the Boston Celtics on Friday. Coach Michael Malone certainly won’t see it that way. The rage timeout over-under will have to be 3.5.


The thing to bet: Under 229.5 (-110)

How are you gonna bet with the starting lineups for both teams this up in the air? I’d suggest that a team traveling East in brutally cold weather vs. a team on a back-to-back suggests that betting the under might be the way to go, especially with backups likely to see more significant action. However I’m sure this line has dropped since the preview was written, so this may be a game where you sit on your hands and wait to see what the actual lineups are, unless you’re a complete sicko.


Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys. Have fun tonight.