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Embiid elevates Sixers as Rockets crash again

Updated: 2024-01-17 09:45
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Joel Embiid missed three games with a swollen left knee, then came back as strong as ever on Monday.

Embiid had 41 points and 10 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers dispatched the Houston Rockets 124-115. The Sixers host the defending champion Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, which would constitute a back-to-back for the big man, should he remain in the lineup.

Embiid, who has missed 10 games this season, returned to produce his 17th straight game with at least 30 points and his 16th in a row with double-digit rebounds. He reached the 40-point mark for the seventh time this season.

"I was just trying to get back into it slowly and let the game come to me," Embiid said in a post-game interview on NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Embiid shot 12-for-21 from the field and 16-for-17 from the free-throw line in 31 dominant minutes.

"I'm not quite where I was," he said, referring to his performance before the latest injury.

Philadelphia's Tyrese Maxey added 27 points and seven assists, and Patrick Beverley contributed 11 points and six assists.

While the Rockets made a late push, Sixers coach Nick Nurse was impressed with how Beverley stabilized the team.

"He loves and plays with so much passion," Nurse said. "If it's in your heart all the time, good things are gonna happen."

Nurse said after the game that he expected Embiid to be in the lineup against the Nuggets, in what will be a matchup between the winners of the past three NBA MVP awards (Embiid in 2022-23, Nikola Jokic in 2020-21 and 2021-22).

The Sixers are likely to be shorthanded once again without Robert Covington (knee), Mo Bamba (knee) and De'Anthony Melton (back).

The Nuggets will be looking for their third consecutive victory as they open a five-game road trip in Philadelphia.

Denver defeated the Indiana Pacers 117-109 on Sunday, mostly thanks to a stellar all-around performance by Jokic. He had 25 points on 12-of-13 shooting and added 12 rebounds and nine assists.

Jokic came up one assist shy of his 13th triple-double this season. Over the past nine games, he has connected on 85 of 105 efforts from the field — a completion rate of 81 percent.

Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr added 25 points apiece in a balanced effort for the Nuggets, which has won 14 of 18.

"I think we're in a good spot," Porter said. "We're about what you can expect with a vastly different bench lineup than last year coming off a championship and a short summer.

"Obviously, we'd love to be No 1 in the West, but we're a couple of games behind it. We're feeling good. Guys are healthy. That's all you can ask for."

The Nuggets continue to surge in the aftermath of their title run, especially with the ball in the capable hands of Jokic and Murray.

"You know that, at the end of the game, the ball is going to be in Jamal or Nikola's hand, and they're going to make the right play," said Pacers guard Bruce Brown, who was on the Nuggets' championship team last season.


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