Sixers bench outshines Nikola Jokic’s MVP campaign but falls short, losing 116-111 in Denver
The Denver Nuggets held on last night to beat the shorthanded Sixers 116-111.
As we all know by now, the highly-anticipated matchup between Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic didn’t happen.
With both Embiid and Harden out of last night’s game, Nikola Jokic took center stage and honestly, didn’t really impress much, shooting 8-of-11 from the floor for 25 points, 17 rebounds, and 12 assists over 35 minutes of action.
If we’re being totally honest with each other, which we always are here at The Liberty Line, anyone who watched that game from start to finish knows that Nikola Jokic doesn’t even belong in the same sentence as Joel Embiid when discussing the MVP Award.
I’m sorry but watching Jokic play basketball and run up stats with handoff-assist after handoff-assist while grabbing 17 rebounds over players like Dewayne Deadmon, Tobias Harris, and PJ Tucker was beyond frustrating. Then to log on to social media and see actual professional members of the national media talk about Jokic’s “unbelievable triple-double” is just infuriating.
Regardless, the Sixers really didn’t have much going all night outside of Tyrese Maxey in the first half. He was unstoppable, scoring 25 points over the first two quarters, including a 20-point outburst in the second to send the Sixers into halftime down just four points to a fully healthy Nuggets team.
In the third quarter, the always questionable coaching decisions from Doc Rivers reared their ugly heads.
The Sixers started the second half with their starting lineup that included Dewayne Deadmon at center and PJ Tucker. That lineup was unsuccessful to start the game and man, did it look ugly to being the third.
Side Note: On the night, PJ Tucker played 23 minutes and was a -23 while shooting 0-for-2 from the floor. Deadmon, who Doc Rivers said last week was a player that he “needed to get him minutes” played 10 minutes, shooting 0-for-2 from the floor with 2 rebounds and an assist. He was -10 on the night.
A slow start to the third ultimately prompted an 22-2 run by the Nuggets, leaving the Sixers in a huge hole. From there, Rivers basically gave up and opted to empty his bench for the remainder of the game.
The small ball lineups of Georges Niang with PJ Tucker simply did not work and when you have two starters in Deadmon and Tucker providing absolutely nothing on the offensive side (or defensive, really), then other players need to step up. De’Anthony Melton was 3-of-12 from the floor and 0-for-5 from three point range. He finished with just seven points and was a -17 on the night. Shake Milton was 0-for-7 from. the floor, 0-for-3 from beyond the arc and finished with just two points.
Tobias Harris scored 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Outside of Maxey and Harris, Jalen McDaniels was 6-of-8 from the floor and scored 14 points off the bench, while Paul Reed, the obvious backup center on this Sixers’ team, was a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor with nine rebounds, an assist, two steals, and a block. McDaniels was a +15 on the night while Reed was a +5.
Quick Thought: This tweet was awful. 76ers Twitter account needs to be better.
Anyways, back to the fourth quarter. With the game looking completely out of reach, Rivers turned to Jaden Springer, Montrezl Harrell, and Furkan Korkmaz in the middle of the final frame, while the Denver Nuggets shamelessly kept their starting lineup in the game.
For a team that has been on record over the past week for not caring about the MVP Award, that was definitely in question last night with Jokic playing 35 minutes against the Sixers’ G League team.
To the surprise of anyone that was still watching the game, the Sixers went on a late run thanks to some solid play from players like Springer and Korkmaz.
Korkmaz hit a reverse layup and Springer knocked down two free throws while McDaniels hounded Jokic, forcing a turnover that led to a fast break dunk to cut the deficit to just six points. Harrell then converted on a put-back dunk to cut Denver’s lead to three at 114-111.
Unfortunately, the Sixers never got an opportunity to tie the game. There was a late foul call on McDaniels with just 13.3 seconds left in the game. Doc Rivers challenged the foul, which ultimately led to a replay showing that the foul wasn’t even the issue, but rather Green being out of bounds on the play before he even shot the basketball.
He also traveled, but none of that mattered because the challenge was on the foul. The call held and the game was over.
Sixers Game Notes
- Doc Rivers never went back to Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey with the Nuggets’ lead down to just five points and roughly 2.5 minutes left on the game. That made zero sense.
- The Nuggets “stat-padding” plan to leave their starters in at the end of the game against the Sixers’ deep bench completely backfired and if anything hurt Jokic’s MVP campaign.
- Those kids trolling Joel Embiid were awful, but at least we finally got a glimpse behind the Jokic Stan Accounts on Twitter.
- Embiid has missed just 14 games this season. He hasn’t played in Denver since November 2019. This is a useless fact.
- The Sixers have now lost four of five games for the first time all season.
- Doc Rivers needs to ditch the Deadmon plan and play Paul Reed and Jaden Springer much more over the final seven games of the regular season.
The Sixers will host the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday in South Philadelphia. With the loss last night, the Sixers fell to 49-26 on the year, three games back of the second place Celtics and five behind the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks. They are 26-11 at home and 23-15 on the road, while posting a 6-4 record over their last 10 games.