Embiid Conquers Jokic as Philadelphia 76ers defeat Denver Nuggets

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Philadelphia 76ers
Dec 10, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) controls the ball against Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Denver Nuggets 97-92 on Tuesday night. The Sixers moved to 13-0 at the Wells Fargo Center this season. It was only the 10th game where they had all five of their ideal starting five and looked dominant for the majority of the game. However, it was rookie Matisse Thybulle that led the charge for Philadelphia.

Storyline: The Process vs The Joker

The debate over the best big man in the NBA made its presence in this game. Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic squared off for the second, and last, time this season. Jokic held Embiid scoreless when guarding him in their matchup back in November, but it was the complete opposite Tuesday night. Jokic did not pick up his first points until four minutes left in the 2nd quarter. Meanwhile, Embiid racked up 14 total points and made it to the charity stripe four times in the first half.

This initially turned out to be a tale of two halves, though. Jokic came out hot to begin the third quarter, scoring seven points in the first five minutes of the half. However, Embiid took care of business and clearly outplayed Jokic for the majority of the game. Jokic did not score at all in the fourth quarter, and ended with a mere 15 points (all in the second half), as Embiid bullied his way to 22 points.

Embiid after the game noted he respects Jokic and considers him a great player.

Top Performers

Tobias Harris: 20 PTS/ 7 REB/ 4 AST/ 2 BLK

Joel Embiid: 22 PTS/ 10 REB/ 6 AST/ 2 STL

Matisse Thybulle: 13 PTS/ 1 STL/ +20 +/-

First Half

The Sixers came out flat to start the game. They allowed Will Barton to score all 15 points to combine for Denver’s first 19 Denver points. His 15 is a season-high for a Denver player in the first quarter, however, the Sixers held him to nothing else after those 15. Jamal Murray left the game with a trunk contusion in the 1st quarter and did not return.

Joel Embiid is back at it what he does best. The entire first half, he was playing aggressive, getting to the line and getting there early. Embiid looked lackadaisical with the ball, though, as his three bad turnovers led to his picking up three fouls in the half. Tobias Harris was stellar early as well, scoring 10 points in the half.

Matisse Thybulle showed to be huge off the bench again. The energy he brings to the floor is beyond his NBA years. Instead of reading his impact at the beginning of this game, just watch it:

The Sixers as a team were able to go on a 22-6 run between the end of the first and the beginning of the second. They were gaining plenty of points in transition, showcasing why they have a top-10 NBA ranking in this stat. However, due to Embiid and Horford combining for seven turnovers in the paint, the Nuggets closed the first half on a 17-8 run of their own, and the teams went into the locker rooms with the Sixers leading by five, 55-50.

Second Half

Denver opened up the second half on a 14-2 run. However, enter Al Horford.

Al Horford heated up after a dismal, scoreless, first half, scoring seven in the third quarter to lead the Sixers to a third-quarter lead. He and Tobias Harris continued their success in the fourth as well.

Josh Richardson did not make the most of his return, only scoring three points in a mere 19 minutes of work.

Matisse Thybulle has earned himself crunch time minutes. His consistent lockdown defense along with his recent success on the offensive end of the court has earned this privilege.

Nikola Jokic scored his only points of the fourth quarter with 18.9 seconds remaining to break a four-minute slump where the Nuggets failed to score a point. The Sixers lockdown defense won them this game.

In a game of five ties and seven lead changes, the game on paper sounds a lot closer than it actually was. The Sixers held momentum for most of the game, as the Nuggets only really had two or three runs of their own.

Quick Game Notes

  • Josh Richardson played on limited minutes
  • Raul Neto should get fewer minutes
  • Thybulle deserves the entire world and more
  • Embiid DOMINATED Jokic

Up Next

The Philadelphia 76ers (18-7) will travel up to play our good friends up in Boston (17-5) on Thursday night. Tip-off for the primetime game is scheduled for 8 p.m. with coverage by TNT.

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports