Pelicans & NBA Basketball

Nikola Jokic leads Nuggets to 100-97 victory over Joel Embiid, Sixers

Typically an early November game between expected playoff teams from different conferences receives little hype.

Friday night's matchup between the 76ers and the Denver Nuggets was an exception.

That's because it featured the league's top two centers in the Sixers' Joel Embiid and the Nuggets' Nikola Jokic.

Jokic beat out Embiid for the All-NBA first-team selection in the vote by media members last season. One could argue Embiid, an All-NBA second-teamer, was snubbed.

Embiid "is as competitive as anybody that I have coached," coach Brett Brown said before the game. "I know how he's wired and how normal competitors would react ... against somebody like Jokic. You would assume it's a day that he's aware of."

So that provided some of the intrigue in a matchup in which Jokic led the Nuggets to a 100-97 victory.

His 20-foot jumper with 2.2 seconds left gave Denver a 98-97 lead. The Sixers had a chance to win on the ensuing possession. But Embiid was called for an offensive foul while posting up Jokic underneath the basket with 0.9 second left. Embiid fouled out on the play.

Will Barton added two foul shots with 0.3 seconds left to give Denver a three-point win. The Nuggets battled back from a 21-point deficit for the victory.

The loss extended Philly's losing streak to three games after it opened the season 5-0. The Sixers, who were outscored 35-13 in the fourth quarter, went 1-3 on their four-game West Coast trip. They were without All-Star point guard Ben Simmons, who's sidelined with a Grade 1 right shoulder sprain.

The absences of Simmons and reserve combination guard Shake Milton (left knee sprain/bone bruise) led to reserve point guard Trey Burke making his first appearance of the season. He subbed for Raul Neto, who got the start, with 3 minutes, 52 seconds left in the first quarter.

The marquee matchup between Embiid and Jokic wasn't as good as advertised.

Neither player shot well early on. Plus, they were rarely on the floor together until the fourth quarter because of foul trouble.

Embiid finished with 19 points on 6-for-17 shooting to go with 15 rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and eight turnovers. It was his 100th double-double since the start of the 2017-18 season. Jokic had 26 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks.

Embiid had five points on 1-for-7 shooting through the first two quarters. He made 4 of 6 shots while adding 10 points in the third quarter.

Simmons didn't give a timetable for his return. The standout deferred the question to the team's public relations department.

"I'm going to make sure I'm 100% before I come back, though," Simmons said Friday night.

The All-Star point guard knows this will be a long season. There's no need to rush back too soon and risk the return of a lingering injury when his team needs him the most. The Sixers have 74 regular-season game remaining and expect to play into June.

He will be reevaluated before the Sixers play the Charlotte Hornets at home Sunday.

Yahoo Sports reported that Simmons will likely miss the Hornets game and Tuesday's home matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Rookie Matisse Thybulle did not see action against the Nuggets. It was the first game the rookie swingman missed all season. He came into the contest tied for fourth in the league in steals at 2.0 per game.

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