Denver Nuggets at Philadelphia 76ers Preview
The Denver Nuggets will travel out East to take on the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night. The teams previously faced off on Nov. 8, a game the Nuggets won 100-97. Joel Embiid had 19 points and 15 rebounds in the game and Nikola Jokic posted 26 points and ten rebounds. The Nuggets come into the game losers of two straight (6-4 in their last 10) while the Sixers have won their last two outings (8-2 in their previous 10).
Both teams are still considered contenders despite their strange and inconsistent starts to the season. Denver has struggled on the offensive end of the court–no. 20 in offense–but owns the league’s second-best defense behind only the red-hot Los Angeles Lakers. Philly sits right behind the Nuggets with the third-best defense and they rank 13th in the league on offense. Mike Malone and his team can’t afford to go on extended losing streaks, you know with playing in the West and everything, so this is a big game.
Time: 8 PM ET
Arena: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Sixers: Josh Richardson (O), Zhaire Smith (O)
Denver Nuggets Starting Lineup
The Nuggets lost a heartbreaker to the Brooklyn Nets 105-102 on Sunday. Spencer Dinwiddie launched a stack through the hearts of Denver and its fans with consecutive driving layups to make the score 103-102 with 26.3 seconds remaining. Nugget’s Will Barton missed a floater on the following play and the Nets recovered the rebound and iced the game at the free-throw line.
Brooklyn sliced up the Nuggets defense with ease in the clutch moments of the game and Denver’s star Jokic expressed frustration over the defensive effort.
“It was too easy for them,” Jokic said. “Second half it was too easy for them. We got to do something. I don’t know what it is, but (we) probably need to do something.”
Denver was led by Jokic who had 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists on 10-0f-21 shooting. Only two other players scored in double figures: Jamal Murray and Jerami Grant. Murray poured in 21 on 3-for-6 shooting on 3s and Grant had 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
The Denver Nuggets have been on the shortlist of contenders since the offseason. They are a team that added just one player to a team that went 54-28 last season and finished second. They have the benefit of continuity–something most of the other contenders do not have. The hope was that offseason pickup Grant would step in and be the ultimate glue guy for the Nuggets–guard multiple positions, hit open 3s, and score transition buckets. Grant has been a bit of a disappointment, but the biggest cause for concern rest with Denver’s star duo. Murray hasn’t taken the leap many had hoped for and Jokic has regressed. Or is he just out of shape? Or how about a little bit of column A a little bit of Column B. Regardless this is a game the Nuggets need to win.
Philadelphia 76ers Starting Lineup
Philly’s most recent game, a 110-104 victory against the Raptors–the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season–didn’t feel as great as it should have. The reason? The Sixers were up by as many as 21 in the game but were outscored 36-24 in the final frame to make it a tight finish. The Sixers turned the ball over seven times down the stretch of the game including turnovers by Embiid on three consecutive possessions. Coach Brett Brown was happy with the victory but disappointed in the way his team ended the contest.
“Where do we begin?” Brown responded when asked about the finish. “The way it ended left a bit of a sour taste.”
The Sixers shot 50.6 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from the 3-point line and had 31 assists and 17 turnovers.
Tobias Harris led the way in the scoring column with 26. Rookie Matisse Thybulle dropped a career-high 20 points on five made 3s. Ben Simmons just missed a triple-double–he had 16 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists–while Embiid (who was held scoreless last time these teams played) had 10.
Philly sits in the no. 4 spot in the East with a record of 17-7. Their offensive numbers are better than I would’ve expected early in the season: third in field-goal percentage (47.8), eighth in 3-point percentage (36.8), and third in assists (27.0). This team has found a way to work with a less than stellar fit between their two stars. But that lack of chemistry on the court might lower the ceiling of this team. For now, the combo of Simmons/Embiid is fine and might be enough to make it out of the East once playoff time comes around.
Key Player Matchups
Joel Embiid vs. Nikola Jokic
Man, what a bummer. Fans of both big men have been left wanting more. Jokic and Embiid have regressed. Embiid is down from 27.5 points per game to 21.9 points this season. His assist to turnover ratio is still horrendous (0.88), he’s shooting 45.9 percent from the field (career-low), and only 31.3 percent on 3s. Jokic looks terminally tired. He’s always been slow, but he looks, slower? His numbers aren’t terrible on the surface: 16.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 6.1 assists. The problems are with his efficiency. Jokic is at a career-low in field goals (46.5), 3s (22.9), effective field goals (49.7), and free-throws (79.6). That’s rough. This is still the prime matchup tonight, and maybe this game will kickstart the two all-star bigs.
Ben Simmons vs. Jamal Murray
Simmons will spend time moving from matchup to matchup on the perimeter, the benefits of having such a versatile defender on your team. I’ve covered how disappointing Simmon’s stagnation on the offensive end has been, but his elite work on the defensive side of the ball shouldn’t go unnoticed. He covers so much space in such little time and his anticipation jumpstarts so many transition opportunities for the Sixers. Murray hasn’t been terrible by any means, but the hope was probably that he’d take another step forward after last year’s playoff run. This will be a great matchup between a score-first guard and a pass-first guard.
For Philly, Simmons and Embiid pair up as your two most productive options in fantasy. Embiid is available on FanDuel for a salary of $10.4k with fantasy projections set for 41.9. His teammate Simmons is a boxscore stuffer who is going for $8.7k with points projected for 37.4.
Despite the step back, he’s taken in production Jokic is still a great fantasy player. He produces a steady dose of points, rebound, and assists; he’s going for $8.8k on FanDuel–with fantasy projections set for 36.2. Nugget’s point guard Murray slides in as the second-best fantasy option on Denver’s roster. He’s available for a salary of $7.3k with fantasy projections set for 28.9.
Bet on Matchup
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