NBA: Embiid leads 76ers past Jokic’s Nuggets
LOS ANGELES – Philadelphia big man Joel Embiid out-dueled two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic on Saturday, pouring in 47 points to lead the 76ers to a 126-119 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
Embiid, who finished runner-up to Jokic in MVP voting the past two seasons, also grabbed 18 rebounds to help the Sixers erase a 15-point halftime deficit on the way to a seventh straight victory.
Embiid, who also missed out on selection as an All-Star Game starter this week, insisted the clash wasn’t about a personal rivalry with Jokic, but about the 76ers testing themselves against the Western Conference’s top team.
“It’s not a rivalry,” he told broadcaster ABC. “I love the big fella, man. Two-time MVP, one of the best players in the league. I’m a big fan.
“(We) just wanted to come out here (against) the best team in the West, see where we’re at,” Embiid added. “I think we’ve got a chance.”
The 76ers improved to 32-16, two games behind the league-leading Boston Celtics atop the Eastern Conference.
At 34-16, the Nuggets are two and a half games ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies atop the West.
Embiid was everywhere in the second half, his step-back jumper knotting the score at 110-110 with 5:48 remaining.
After his block on Jamal Murray, Embiid scored on the fastbreak to put the 76ers up for good, and he drained a step-back three-pointer over Jokic that pushed Philadelphia’s lead to 125-117 with 30.1 seconds to play.
James Harden added 17 points and 13 assists while Tobias Harris and Georges Niang added 14 points apiece for Philadelphia.
“There’s a reason we’ve won 20 out of the last 24 games,” Embiid said. “We’re just doing it as a team. They trust me, I trust them and we’re just making plays for each other.”
Jokic led the Nuggets with 24 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. Jamal Murray added 22 points, but after building their big lead Denver couldn’t match Philadelphia’s energy in the third quarter and Embiid seized upon the opening.