The month of March will be difficult for the Sixers as they are in a tough stretch and will not have more than one day of rest in between games for the remainder of the season. This includes two more back-to-backs after tonight. The 76ers will face the Nuggets in the second end of a back-to-back after an overtime thriller with the Magic down in Orlando last night.
Tonight the Philadelphia 76ers may show some tired legs as the Magic were not as easy to defeat as they were expected to be. Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and Tobias Harris each had to play over 40 minutes in the game in order to secure the overtime victory, which should be considered a loss in itself against the 18-51 Magic.
Regardless, the Sixers will face off with the Nuggets tonight with another chance to continue to climb in the standings. After last night’s victory, the Philadelphia 76ers climbed to second place in the East with a record of 41-25. They currently hold the tiebreaker over the Bucks (who are also 41-25) for second place, but the two teams will square off on March 29th, and this game will have a major impact on the standings.
Who are the Denver Nuggets?
The Denver Nuggets sit at 6th place in the Western Conference with a record of 40-28. They have had an injury-riddled season, including Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr. Murray has missed the entirety of the season with a torn ACL, and there is still no timetable for his return. After giving Michael Porter Jr. a massive extension this offseason, his back concerns have flared up, and he has only been able to suit up for 9 games this season. MPJ has begun some on-court activity, but there still has not been a date established for his return.
Even with the injuries, the Nuggets have had a successful season so far. Nikola Jokic serves as the focal point of their offense, and they have a ton of motion in their system where they use Jokic’s passing ability to capitalize on cutters. Denver also has several impactful role players such as Will Barton, Austin Rivers, Aaron Gordon, and DeMarcus Cousins. Their first-round pick Bones Hyland has also impressed early on and possesses infectious energy, which is extremely fun to watch.
Joel Embiid vs Nikola Jokic
The headline of this game is the showdown between the two best big men in the NBA and the two leaders in the MVP race. It should first be acknowledged how impressive each individual player is as both guys deserve their recognition for being in the top-tier players in the league and do so in extremely different ways.
The superstar big men have faced off just five times in their careers due to playing in different conferences. In these five matchups, Embiid has averaged 19.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.2 blocks, and 1.2 steals. The big men have not faced off since December 10th, 2019, so it will be exciting to see each of them face off now in their primes.
While, in reality, it should not matter more than any other game, this is certain to have a big impact on the MVP voting. Joel Embiid currently is the favorite for MVP voting, with Nikola Jokic hot on his tail. If Embiid wants to successfully take home the trophy, a good performance today, and a win for the 76ers, would go a long way to accomplishing this goal. As it currently stands, Embiid is listed as a -135 favorite for the award, while Jokic is right behind him at +200.
Danny Green’s Return to the 76ers
After missing the previous two games with a finger laceration, Danny Green is expected to rejoin the Sixers after being upgraded to probable earlier today. The veteran guard will be a positive addition to the 76ers’ rotation for his floor-spacing ability and fit alongside James Harden. Matisse Thybulle has struggled over the past few games, so if Green is able to come out looking 100%, don’t be surprised if he sees some extended minutes. It has been a frustrating year for Danny Green, who has been injured for a good portion of the season. Getting him back in stride and finding his proper role before the playoffs would help the 76ers in a major way.
While tonight’s game will count the same as any other in the stands, the Jokic vs. Embiid matchup is certain to carry some extra weight. This game will be nationally televised on ESPN, and there is sure to be lots of talk about the MVP conversation. This game will tip-off at 7:30, and the Philadelphia 76ers will look to capitalize on their home-court advantage.
Currently, the 76ers are the slightest of favorites for tonight’s matchup against the Nuggets as the money line sits at-150 in favor of the Sixers. With the spread at only -3 for Philadelphia, it certainly looks like it’s anyone’s game.
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