76ers woeful without Joel Embiid, draw Nuggets

NBA

The Philadelphia 76ers have dealt with plenty of adversity in the first month of the season, from the absence of Ben Simmons to players missing games due to health and safety protocols.

Despite Simmons not being with the team, Philadelphia started off winning eight of its first 10. But center Joel Embiid has missed the last five games, which has directly correlated to a five-game losing streak.

The Sixers will try to avoid a sixth straight loss when they play at the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night.

The Sixers are in the middle of a six-game road trip, and the last stop wasn’t pleasant. Utah routed Philadelphia, 120-85, without Embiid in the middle.

The Sixers are also without Matisse Thybulle for health and safety protocols. He tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 5 and has missed the last six games. There is no clear date when either player will return.

“With Matisse, it’s just trying to get the right date with the league,” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said before the game against the Jazz. “It’s a lot of clutter going on; I’ll leave it at that. With Joel, same thing, just trying to get better. You have to have the two negative tests.”

Both players are fully vaccinated.

Embiid tested positive for the virus on Nov. 8. For a vaccinated player it requires a 10-day quarantine, which would have meant Embiid is eligible to return for the game against the Nuggets. However, he is symptomatic and likely will miss the entire road trip.

The Sixers also played Tuesday’s game without Danny Green, who was out with a hamstring injury.

Denver has dealt with its issues as well.

The last two games have been played without three starters — Jamal Murray (ACL), Michael Porter Jr. (back soreness) and Will Barton (back tightness). Coach Michael Malone said Sunday that Porter, who hasn’t played since Nov. 6 against Houston, would be out “for the foreseeable future,” but Barton could return Thursday.

Denver guard Austin Rivers said Porter has been dealing with back issues all season.

“No one really knows what’s going on with that,” Rivers said. “We just know his back has had some minor setbacks.”

The Nuggets have had to adjust to the absences and it has created opportunities for other players. Rookie Bones Hyland has seen increased minutes and responded with four straight games in which he set a career-high in points, a streak that ended Monday in Dallas when he twisted his ankle.

Hyland should be available against the Sixers after two days off between games.

Embiid’s absences means there won’t be a matchup with Nikola Jokic in the middle. Embiid was a serious MVP candidate last season before getting hurt and Jokic won the award to become the first Nuggets player to take home the trophy.

Jokic has continued to play at an MVP level this year with averages of 26.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists.

He had two straight triple-doubles against Indiana and Atlanta and missed out on a third straight against Portland on Sunday, finishing with 28 points, nine rebounds and nine assists while sitting out the fourth quarter in the blowout win.

–Field Level Media

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