Joel Embiid vs Nikola Jokic: Preview of MVP Battle tonight in Denver
The Philadelphia 76ers and Joel Embiid are coming off a 20-point loss to the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night, marking their second straight loss on their current road trip after losing to the Warriors on Friday night.
Philadelphia is currently 49-25 on the season, 2.5 games behind the Boston Celtics in second place and four games behind the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks with eight games left in the regular season.
Note: The Sixers will play the Bucks on Sunday, April 2nd and the Celtics on Tuesday, April 4th.
Salvaging a rough road trip with a win against the top seed in the west tonight would be a massive lift for the Sixers, who are just trying to stay as healthy as possible entering the playoffs.
The Nuggets completed test number one on Saturday night, outscoring the Milwaukee Bucks in the second half 66-40 to beat the top seed in the east 129-106. Jokic finished the night with 31 points, 11 assists, and six rebounds in the win.
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Denver currently leads the Grizzlies by 3.5 games with eight left on the schedule and while head coach Mike Malone and Jokic himself are saying that clinching the No. 1 seed in the West is the only priority, you’d be foolish to think that tonight’s game is about anything other than the battle of two MVP candidates in Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic.
Joel Embiid will enter tonight leading the NBA in scoring, averaging 33.3 points per game and all things considered, tends to get up for games like we have tonight.
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Embiid recently spoke with Shams in an article on The Athletic and had this to say about the MVP Award and how analytics has poisoned the voting over the past few years.
The Athletic: Joel Embiid on the MVP Award criteria changing
“The criteria does change. If we want to talk about the last three years since I’ve been in the running for it, the first year it was that I didn’t play enough games. Last year, I came back, I played enough games, I led the league in scoring, and obviously, Nikola deserved it and he won it. But then again, he won as a sixth seed in the West. And then this year, I’m leading the league in scoring, I’m doing all of these things defensively … I should be making an All-Defensive team too. I don’t care, but every year it’s something. And when you add analytics into it, which don’t make sense. You can talk about analytics all you want. When you got some guys in the league, the eye test tells you that they’re not good defensively, but analytics tell you they’re the best defenders. That’s when analytics don’t make sense at all. I don’t make the rules, I don’t choose whatever criteria that they use, so it’s really about whatever people’s preferences are.”
We all remember what happened on January 28th when the Nuggets came to South Philadelphia. Embiid scored 47 points and hauled in 18 rebounds while the Sixers beat the Nuggets 126-119 in a statement win.
On Friday, Embiid told Draymond that he took it personally that Green said Jokic was the toughest player to defend in the NBA.
Embiid scored 46 points with eight assists and nine rebounds in the Sixers’ 120-112 loss to the Warriors.
Point being, Embiid and the Sixers will be ready to play tonight. Whether James Harden will be joining them, is certainly up in the air. Harden is traveling with the Sixers and could play tonight against the Nuggets, but has been held out the last three games with a sore Achilles.
The Sixers’ point guard is leading the NBA with 10.8 assists while averaging 21.4 points per game. Doc Rivers recently spoke with the media regarding Harden’s health and the general health of the Sixers team as they set their sights on the playoffs.
“You want them to get healthy, and you don’t want to coach trying to push guys to play, put any pressure on guys,” Rivers said Saturday. “We’ve got to be healthy when it counts. If that means James doesn’t play Monday, I have no qualms with that. We need him back, but we want him back for the long haul. We don’t want him in and out, especially at this point in the season.”
Embiid, also talked about health heading into the playoffs in the same article above with Shams at The Athletic.
“I feel great. This is the best I’ve felt my whole career, especially this late into the season and going into the playoffs. That’s my focus. I’m ready for a big run.”