The Tip-Off: 76ers looking to avoid three straight losses without Simmons

The Philadelphia 76ers (5-2) will look to avoid a three-game West coast sweep while facing the Denver Nuggets (5-2). The game will tip-off at 9 p.m. EST, with coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Philadelphia. Radio coverage will be on 97.5 The Fanatic.

The Ben Simmons-less Sixers are five-point underdogs with an over/under set at 210.5.

First things first: Simmons Injury

Ben Simmons left Wednesday night’s game against the Jazz with a shoulder injury. It seems to have occurred on this play:

Simmons wound up leaving the game. Ben is expected to miss three games with an AC shoulder joint sprain.

There is no further update at this time, aside from Raul Neto is expected to start tonight. Expect Shake Milton (when returned) to split minutes with Neto and Josh Richardson.

So far this season, the 6’10 point guard is averaging 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 6.9 assists. Just by the eye test Wednesday night, the Sixers looked lost without Simmons controlling play and dishing out passes. Despite the debate about Simmons’ improvement as a shooter, his ability to control the floor will be missed for the next three games.

Know your enemy: Denver Nuggets

2019 Season

The Denver Nuggets are coming off a key win over the Miami Heat. They cruised to a 109-89 win over Jimmy Butler’s new team. In the young season, the Nuggets sport an overall 5-2 record. Their key wins come against the Heat and Trail Blazers, with their losses served by Dallas and New Orleans.

Key Players

Denver sports a very similar lineup to last season. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic lead the Nuggets this season. Murray currently leads his team with 18.9 points per game, as Jokic leads in assists and rebounds. Jokic stands tall with 5.9 and 9.7 in those categories, respectively.

Coming off rest

In Friday’s marquee matchup against the 76ers, the Nuggets will be coming off 3 days rest. Since the beginning of 2018, the Nuggets are second-best in the NBA with a 14-5 record with 2-3 days off. They also lead the NBA with a margin of victory of seven points in those games.

Key Matchup: Jokic vs. Embiid

The debate over who the NBA’s best center meets tonight for the fourth time in their careers. Both big men are unstoppable forces in the league, however, Embiid tends to take the cake with stats. According to a blind poll among fans on Twitter as well, Embiid’s numbers are preferred as well.

Both big men will have their work cut out for each other tonight. Embiid’s natural power and talent will take on Jokic’s incredible basketball IQ and ability. Expect this to be a pure battle in the paint all night long. Embiid should take the edge tonight, as he has to increase his role with Simmons out.

Game Prediction

This game is almost impossible to predict. The Nuggets have lost games they should have won, and won games that were slightly harder matchups. The Sixers have been up and down this season, and now have their first game without starting point guard Ben Simmons. As mentioned earlier, the Sixers are a completely different team without Simmons.

Tonight’s matchup will come down to two things:

  1. Embiid must dominate Jokic
  2. The way the Sixers split up point guard minutes

As of now, Raul Neto is expected to get his first start this season. That does not take away from the idea that Richardson should split time with Neto in this role. Also, don’t neglect that the Sixers also have Trey Burke waiting to step onto the court for meaningful minutes.

Prediction: Sixers slip out of Denver with a win. It will be a defensive, low scoring battle, but Philadelphia will showcase their grit. Expect a 109-103 win in favor of Philadelphia. But with this, also expect more of the silly “trade Ben Simmons!” crowd to come out of the trenches.

Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

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