Player grades: Joel Embiid, Sixers rally to beat Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
PHILADELPHIA–The Philadelphia 76ers and the Denver Nuggets clashed on Saturday afternoon in a matchup that featured two of the best players in the game in Joel Embiid for Philadelphia and Nikola Jokic for Denver. The two are the top centers in the league and they have been able to dominate the game with their skills.
The game started off in a back-and-forth affair as the two talented teams went at it before Denver gained some separation late in the second quarter. The Nuggets shot 65.9% in the first half which allowed them to build a 73-58 halftime lead, but the Sixers then realized that playing defense would allow them to have success on the floor. They buckled down and rallied to win it 126-119 for their seventh straight win.
Embiid was dominant and had 47 and 18 rebounds with five assists while Jokic had 24 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists in the battle of the star big men.
James Harden added 17 points and 13 assists, De’Anthony Melton had 13 points, and Tyrese Maxey added 13 and six assists. Tobias Harris had 14 points and six rebounds and Georges Niang added 14 to chip in.
Here are the player grades following the win at home:
James Harden: A-
It was a good offensive night for Harden as he was able to get into the paint and be able to lead the offense off to a good start. The Nuggets didn’t really have a clear answer for him as they weren’t able to stay in front of him. On the flip side, Denver played excellent help defense all day. There were plenty of times when Harden would try and throw a pass across the court to what appeared to be an open shooter and the Nuggets would get in the passing lanes for a deflection and a steal. Overall, Harden was very good offensively and not great defensively.
De'Anthony Melton: A-
Melton knocked down his first 3-pointer, a corner try, and he had a few nice moments on the defensive end in terms of on-ball defense. He seemed a bit out of sorts in terms of his defense off the ball, it wasn’t great as Denver was getting a lot of wide-open triples off ball and player movement. He did contribute on the offensive end with his 3-point shooting, but he didn’t have the same sting on the defensive end for the Sixers in this one.
Tobias Harris: C+
It was a strange contest for Harris. He only took three shots in the first half as he wasn’t able to get much of an opportunity to contribute. The Sixers focused their offense so much on the Harden and Embiid pick-and-roll, as they should, that Harris wasn’t able to get involved much on the offensive end. He didn’t score until the third quarter and that just shouldn’t happen at all. He was terrific in the fourth quarter to help the Sixers rally and win this one, but he has to be involved in games from the get-go.
PJ Tucker: D+
This was a tough matchup for Tucker. Denver has a lot of athletic big men who can go off and give the Nuggets a big spark on the offensive end. He did a good job of giving effort and really getting into the chest of Aaron Gordon, but he just had a tough day defensively. He also got frustrated to the point where he picked up a technical foul in the third quarter. He also had probably the biggest play of the game when he tipped in a Harden miss to give the Sixers a 5-point edge with 1:02 left to seal it. It was only his rebound and his only points of the game.
Joel Embiid: A+
The game began by featuring Embiid a lot on the offensive end of the floor. The big fella had some success scoring against Jokic, but The Joker also stripped him a few times as he was careless with the basketball a bit. Jokic actually deserves a ton of credit for his defense against Embiid. He forced him into some tough shots and he also forced him into a few turnovers. Overall, the big fella was terrific on the offensive end and he made some big plays, and he really put his stamp on this game from the jump. He was phenomenal down the stretch to close this one out.
Tyrese Maxey: B-
The energetic sparkplug hopped off the bench and immediately pumped in some offense when Philadelphia needed it. The Nuggets were getting way too many easy hoops and the Sixers had to keep up on the offensive end. So that’s where Maxey comes in with his offensive ability. Unfortunately, he had a few turnovers in the third quarter from stepping on the baseline. He didn’t shoot the ball well in this one as he didn’t have the same efficiency on offense.
Georges Niang: A-
The Minivan knocked down a 3-pointer in his initial run to get him off to a good start. He had a tough time dealing with Denver’s athleticism in the paint, but he gave an honest effort and he was a nice spark for the Sixers. He nailed two huge triples in the third quarter to help the Sixers get back in the game and then hit a wild one off an inbounds play to beat the shock clock in the fourth.
Matisse Thybulle: A-
It was a good start for Thybulle in terms of his energy. He provided a big spark on both ends of the floor by going amongst the trees and tapping in a miss on the offensive end and he was very active on defense as usual for him. He had a few tough moments with Jamal Murray, but overall, he was good. His defense in the second half was essential in helping Philadelphia get back in the game after the slow start.
Shake Milton: D+
He had a rough defensive run, but he was able to finish a tough bucket. There seemed to be a miscommunication in the second quarter when he and Niang had a 2-on-1 opportunity and Milton wasn’t able to get it to him. Denver played excellent defense on the play, though, in order to get the stop. Overall though, he didn’t do much in terms of production.
Montrezl Harrell: D
The veteran was able to carve out some space on the offensive end to get himself an easy dunk, but other than that, it wasn’t a great run for Harrell. He struggled defensively and he wasn’t able to make an impact on the glass either.