Joel Embiid did his part against the Denver Nuggets and Nikola Jokić.
In a matchup that could play a part in determining the league MVP, the 76ers center finished with a game-high 34 points to go with nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal. Embiid attacked Jokić from the start, posting 10 early points on 4-for-6 shooting in what turned out to be a 116-114 loss Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Jokić finished with 22 points, a game-high 13 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks and two steals as the elite big men faced off in a head-to-head meeting for the first time since Dec. 10, 2019. The MVP and center debate between Embiid and Jokić will continue throughout the season.
But does Embiid believe he proved he’s the league’s best center and MVP Monday night?
“We lost,” he said. “That’s what I care about. I care about the wins. It’s up to you guys [in the media] to have this conversation to decide who’s the best, who has the best game, and all that stuff. I really don’t care about that. I just wanna win.
“Obviously, we’re thinking about championships and at this point, we gotta be better. As far as individual awards, he’s the reigning MVP and he’s been a monster all season. You guys can also build a case for me, but that’s not my focus. I’m focused on how we can get better every single day and we got a lot to work on.”
This marked the Sixers’ second loss in three games. They take a 41-26 record into Wednesday night’s road game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Sixers are in third place in the Eastern Conference standings, a half game ahead of the fourth-place Chicago Bulls. The Cavs (39-29) are in sixth place.
While Embiid’s focused on that game, he and Jokić are the frontrunners to win MVP.
Embiid is the league’s leading scorer at 29.8 points per game. He’s eighth in the league in rebounds at 11.2 and 10th in blocks at 1.4. Jokić is ninth in scoring (26.0), second in rebounds (13.7) and seventh in assists (8.0).
“Obviously, he’s a monster,” Embiid said. “He’s a great player and I love competition. I love playing against the best and I’m always happy that it’s another big man with what he’s able to do. ...
“He’s a great player. I love his game. I love watching him. And I’m even more proud that he’s a big man.”