In their second straight game under the national television spotlight, the Philadelphia 76ers (32-16) hosted the Denver Nuggets (34-16). In the showdown between Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, the Sixers secured a win in comeback fashion by a score of 126-119

Let’s break down the Sixers’ huge win over the Nuggets, their seventh consecutive win.

Sixers player notes:

Joel Embiid: 47 points, 18 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 3 steals, 18-31 FG shooting

Embiid got back to his ways of dominating first quarters by making his first four shots, going right at Jokic, but he left some points on the table with three missed free throws. Despite some bad turnovers, he had a huge performance that was highlighted by a thunderous reverse dunk.

Down the stretch, Embiid just took over, making key plays on both ends of the court. He may not be an All-Star starter or an MVP but my goodness, he is just a remarkable player.

James Harden: 17 points, 4 rebounds, 13 assists, 5-10 FG shooting

Harden scored very efficiently and was pristine with his playmaking. The Nuggets had to stick their feet out often to deflect his passes, which shows (at least partly) that he knew how to get the ball through their defense. He also shot the ball very well.

Tyrese Maxey: 13 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 4-11 FG shooting

Maxey’s really starting to get the feel of being a miracle bench scorer, folks. He hit shots from various locations on the court, including a triple despite a foul from Bruce Brown, and made some very nice passes. Although he didn’t do as much in the second half, he had a decent performance overall.

Georges Niang: 14 points, 1 rebound, 0 assists, 5-9 FG shooting

Niang loves saving his best work for later in the game. He started off 1-4 from deep before hitting three massive second-half triples. Games like these may not come all the time but they cannot be understated when discussing his value to the team.

Nuggets player notes:

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Nikola Jokic: 24 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks, 8-12 FG shooting

The extremes of Jokic’s game — his huge impact on offense and weakness on defense — were on full display to start this one. He eventually did a much better job of sizing up Embiid and continued to get buckets. In a surprising twist, P.J. Tucker played a massive role in allowing him down in the second half. Still, he was tough to stop. Aside from his high field-goal percentage, the Sixers should be proud to hold him to what he did.

Jamal Murray: 22 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 7-16 FG shooting

While Jokic sat in the second quarter, Murray got to cooking. He hit pull-up jumpers and got the ball moving, which was especially key in the minutes when Jokic sat.

Michael Porter Jr.: 20 points, 6 rebounds, 0 assists, 7-11 FG shooting

Like Seth Curry on Wednesday, MPJ brought an off-ball scoring punch that proved to be damaging. He took full advantage of his teammates’ passing and his own size advantage to pour on the points from deep.

Game notes:

1st half

  • The game started about as good as Sixers fans could have asked for: Jokic missed a shot, then Embiid scored on a tough shot through a Jokic foul. The two exchanged buckets and Jokic eventually drew a foul on Embiid.
  • Maxey had a jumper and a nice dime to Montrezl Harrell on his first two possessions but putting them in the game with the Nuggets’ offense firing on all cylinders was not a recipe for success. Embiid subbed back in for Harrell after less than three minutes of game time but then picked up his second foul.
  • The Sixers once again were able to score just fine but the Nuggets’ off-ball movement made life super easy for Jokic, who found numerous teammates for buckets while hitting a few of his own. Although Embiid had 14 points on 6-10 shooting in the first quarter, Philly trailed by nine.
  • A second-unit lineup featuring Embiid nearly evened things up against Denver’s Murry-and-bench lineup by crashing the boards for second-chance points. Using Embiid in that lineup, however, led to the dreaded Harrell-Jokic matchup when he sat. It went about as well as you’d expect.
  • The Sixers trailed 73-58 at the half, shooting an impressive 10-20 from deep but just 4-10 from the free-throw line. The Nuggets shot 65.9 percent from the field.

2nd half

  • The Sixers opened up the second half using P.J. Tucker on Jokic, applying some pressure in the backcourt as he brought the ball up, with Embiid in a position to help off of his man (Aaron Gordon). Embiid was a menace of the ball and Tucker held his own with his way bigger assignment.
  • Offensively to start the second half, the Sixers relied on the Harden-Embiid two-man game and got points on seven straight possessions to fuel a 15-4 run. Tobias Harris helped the cause by scoring on tough drives to the hoop but Michael Porter Jr. responded with some buckets of his own.
  • The refs issued some technical fouls as the game continued to heat up. Georges Niang hit a three on consecutive possessions, Embiid converted an old-fashioned one and then drew a shooting foul on a backcourt heave (hilarious) and hit all his foul shots. The Sixers trailed by three going into the final frame.
  • Maxey hit his patented one-legged runner/floater shot to start the fourth quarter but it looked like he was anticipating contact too much on his next few drives and came up empty. The Nuggets bench found ways to score, pushing their lead. Harden came in and helped the Sixers out with some key dimes, including to Harris on a game-tying triple.
  • A bucket-block-bucket sequence from Embiid got the Sixers the lead. He then hit a triple to give Philly a five-point advantage, sending the Wells Fargo Center crowd into a frenzy.
  • Harris came up with another triple and then stole the ball from Jokic to start a fast break that led to more Sixers points. Then came a putback shot and steal from Tucker and then Embiid hit a dagger step-back triple in Jokic’s face.

Random thoughts:

  • The seats in the media section were draped with green shirts that donned the Sixers and Eagles logos along with the “Brotherly Love” tagline. Philly sports is definitely having a good time right now. (My prediction for tomorrow’s NFC Championship Game, if anyone cares, is a 27-14 Eagles win.)
  • Jokic got a big smattering of boos from the Philly crowd during the starting lineup introductions. He didn’t get it like Ben Simmons did but it wasn’t too far off. Embiid and Jokic may not have any issues — the Nuggets superstar actually came to Embiid’s defense over his All-Star starter snub — but it’s safe to say each fan base isn’t too fond of the opposing team’s superstar center.

The Sixers will be back in action at home on Monday against the Orlando Magic.