Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has a simple message when talking about Tuesday’s anticipated matchup with the 76ers’ Joel Embiid: Forget the hype.
These were the two all-NBA centers from last year, with Jokic on the first team and Embiid on the second team. So when Jokic was asked if he gets a little more hyped up when facing a player the caliber of Embiid, he had a straightforward answer.
“No,” he said in an interview with The Inquirer after Tuesday morning’s shootaround. “I think there are a lot of big men in the league that are really good, but Joel is at the highest level and is playing really well.”
Neither Embiid nor Jokic is playing as well as last season, but they can still dominate games.
“Joel is extremely talented and is a threat all over the floor,” Jokic said. “You have to be ready to defend.”
Tuesday’s 8 p.m. game will be the second and final meeting between the teams this season. On Nov. 8, the Nuggets staged a madcap comeback in a 100-97 win in Denver. Denver trailed by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter before storming back. Jokic made a 20-foot jumper to give Denver a 98-97 lead with 2.2 seconds left. Embiid then was called for a charge with .9 seconds remaining. The NBA Officiating Last 2 Minute Report later stated that a foul should have been called on Jokic instead of Embiid.
Jokic had 26 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in that game. Embiid had 19 points (6-for-17 shooting) and 15 rebounds. He added two assists but committed eight turnovers. The Sixers were without Ben Simmons, who missed that game because of a shoulder injury.
“They were into us. They were really physical and playing really well,” Jokic said. “Ben Simmons was out and he will be playing tonight so that is another thing we have to worry about, but we need to worry about ourselves.”
Denver (14-7) has lost 4 of 5 and is concluding a four-game road trip in Philadelphia. The Sixers (17-7) are 12-0 at home, joining Boston and Miami as the only NBA teams with unbeaten home records.
Sixers starting guard Josh Richardson, who has missed the last six games with right hamstring tightness, has been listed as probable on the official NBA injury report. Richardson is averaging 16.1 points and has been among the Sixers’ top defensive players.