Nikola Jokic isn’t minding Joel Embiid’s absence in what could have been their heavyweight matchup on Tuesday, as the Denver Nuggets smacked the Philadelphia 76ers at home, 116-111.
Hours before the duel, the 76ers pulled Embiid out, citing precautionary reasons as they looked to manage the big man’s a sore right calf. The franchise superstar played on back-to-backs against the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns on Friday and Saturday, respectively, which all resulted in losses.
The medical update provided by Philly ultimately disappointed basketball fans who were waiting for another bout between this season’s MVP frontrunners. Upon the release of a cryptic interview of Embiid with Zach Harper and Shams Charania of The Athletic on the same day, all of the hype and intensifying narratives for the matchup suddenly turned to dust.
“I mean, I didn’t really think [about it]. If he goes, he goes; If he doesn’t [he doesn’t],” Jokic said if he’s disappointed in Embiid’s Tuesday unavailability. “It’s not going to change my approach to the game.”
With Embiid out together with James Harden (Achilles), the highly anticipated match of two of the contending teams in the league turned into a one-sided fare that spoiled the league circle’s anticipation of a thrilling duel.
Facing a starless Philadelphia squad, Jokic put in easy work with his usual brilliance – 25 points, 17 rebounds, and 12 assists. This served as his 29th triple-double of the season with Nuggets going up further as the Western Conference’s top seed.
Even though he wasn’t able to face his strongest opponent in his potential three-peat MVP feat for the last time this year – unless they meet in June for the NBA Finals – Jokic got nothing but full respect and admiration for Embiid’s greatness.
Jokic described Embiid as a “beast” and one of the best players in the NBA given his impact on both ends of the floor. The Cameroonian star has been leading the league in points (33.3) and charging the Sixers to a 49-26 record that stands third in the East.
“I think he’s a great player. I think he’s gonna be remembered as one of the most dominant players in the league,” Jokic continued. “The guy is a beast and he’s so talented he can affect on many ways on the floor. He can affect the game in many ways on the floor.
“He can post up, he can face up, he can shoot threes, he can defend really well, he can, in some situation, guard one through five. I think he’s really, really good player.”