PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid won the MVP contenders’ battle with 47 points and 18 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers extended their winning streak to seven games with a 126-119 win over Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
Jokic and Embiid have ranked first and second in the NBA’s Most Valuable Player poll for the past two seasons. Both are among the top contenders for MVP as this season hits the halfway point, though Embiid wasn’t named among the Eastern Conference All-Star starters.
🔥 EMVPIID 🔥
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 28, 2023
“I’m used to it and it’s not the first time,” Embiid said. “I think it’s more of a motivation to go out there and try to win the whole thing. That’s the only way I can get this respect.”
Jokic nodded to Embiid for his game.
“He’s really talented,” Jokic told Embiid’s Denver Post. “Really dodgy.”
– NBA (@NBA) January 28, 2023
James Harden had 17 points and 13 assists, and Tobias Harris scored all 14 of his points in the second half after being shut down by Denver’s defense in the first half.
“We were able to figure out some things and make some stops,” Harris said. “To have the guys step up and take shots was huge for us to try to cut the deficit in the fourth quarter and try to make an impact.”
Jokic had 24 points, eight rebounds and nine assists for Denver, who have lost three of their last four games. Jamal Murray contributed 22 points and Michael Porter added 20.
“We turned it around and they just put the pressure on us,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone. “They got to the basket far too easily with their attacking mentality. And we just got way too careless with basketball.”
Embiid has scored 40 or more points nine times this season and 35 times in his career. In addition to the All-Star snub, Embiid was fined $25,000 by the NBA on Friday for demonstrating on the court after the basket celebration during Wednesday night’s win over Brooklyn.
“Let’s further insult Joel by fining him and not counting him among the All-Star starters,” said Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers sarcastically.
The Nuggets started the day with the second-best team field goal percentage of 50.7% and 3-point percentage of 39.5%. In the first half, they overwhelmed Philadelphia’s full-back, shooting 65.9% (29-44) from the floor and 10-of-17 (58.8%) from beyond the 3-point line. Hot shooting helped the Nuggets take a 73-58 lead at halftime.
Embiid began taking over late in the third quarter, putting together a 16-point quarter on a 5-of-6 shooting that sparked a 14-0 run that allowed the Sixers to get inside early in the fourth 99-98 to close.
In the last quarter, Philadelphia wore down a Nuggets team playing the last game of a three-week, three-game trip. PJ Tucker – who switched to Jokic defensively and slowed him in the second half – followed a missed Harden 3-pointer with a tip-in by over a minute to extend the lead to five. Embiid then hit a 3-pointer to restore an eight-point lead.
“I’ve always liked to think I’m closer and I am,” Embiid said. “I enjoy taking the last shot or the last second shot while the clock is ticking. I love getting into that kind of possession where you have to make the plays. You find out who is who and who is being made up for moments like this.”