AP PHOTO/WINSLOW TOWNSON
The Denver Nuggets will get their first look at a new and improved Philadelphia 76ers team to close out 2017.
Where: Denver, CO-Pepsi Center
When: 7 p.m. MST
Watch/Listen: Altitude Sports and Entertainment, NBA TV-KKSE 950 AM
The Denver Nuggets didn’t win their 20th game of last season till January 26th, a feat they can accomplish on Saturday night at Pepsi Center. Winning 20 games before the new calendar year would certainly be a boost for a Nuggets team that didn’t collect their 20th victory till the end of January last season. The Nuggets are looking to finish their final five games of 2017 with a record of 4-1, after strong victories over Portland, Golden State, Utah, and hopefully Philadelphia. That one loss in the stretch came in Minnesota on Wednesday in a tough 128-125 overtime loss to Jimmy Butler and the Timberwolves. A win on Saturday would give the Nuggets a jump start into the second half of the season where they’ll have a home heavy schedule till the beginning of March.
The Nuggets got some good news on Friday when it was revealed that 76ers star big man Joel Embiid would be held out of Saturdays game.
Embiid is out tomorrow
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) December 29, 2017
Embiid is still recovering from a knee injury and has already missed nine games so far this season. Embiid currently leads the 76ers in points at 24 per game and in rebounds at 11 per game. His presence will certainly be missed for a 76ers team that relies on Embiid to be their leader and take the shot when the game is on the line. It’s a shame that Nuggets fans won’t be able to see Embiid Saturday night at Pepsi Center, but his absence should mean a big night for Nuggets star Nikola Jokic.
Philadelphia has a record of 15-19 and sit at tenth in the Eastern Conference, but are much improved from the last couple of seasons. The 76ers didn’t win their 15th game till January 21st last season and won just ten games two seasons ago. The additions of Ben Simmons and JJ Redick have been big for the 76ers this season and have really given their offense a jolt. Redick is second on the team in points per game at 16.9 and is shooting just under 40 percent from behind the three-point line.
After missing all of last season with a foot injury, Simmons is showing that he is healthy and was worthy of being the first pick in the draft in 2016. He’s currently averaging 16.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game. Simmons is a 6’10,” 230 pound point guard, who already has four triple-doubles this season. He’s also a very good defensive player and uses his big frame to his advantage on the defensive end of the court. Simmons leads the 76ers in steals per game at 1.9 and is second on the team in blocks per game with a number just under one. His playmaking ability is special on both ends of the court and will be fun to watch at Pepsi Center on Saturday night.
Ben Simmons is on his way to another triple double, here’s a dime to Robert Covington for the jam #HereTheyCome
— Sports Degens (@TheSportsDegens) December 20, 2017
The Nuggets are still led in all three major statistical categories by Nikola Jokic, who is averaging 16.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. Gary Harris is second on the team at 16 points per game and is first on the team in steals at 1.8 per game. Harris could potentially be matched up against one of the players mentioned above, Redick or Simmons, and will be in for a tough challenge whoever it is.
Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray is coming off a game where he played 46 minutes and also had a career high eight assists. Murray’s points per game total has clubbed all the way up to 15.3, which is tied for third on the team with injured forward Paul Millsap.
Jamal Murray to start the year:
14.1 PPG, 43% FG, 29% 3PT
Jamal Murray's last 15 games:
16.5 PPG, 45% FG, 43% 3PT.
— Josh Eberley 🇨🇦 (@JoshEberley) December 21, 2017
Murray’s three-point shot is what’s really come along in the last month or so and he’s now up to 35.8 percent from behind the arc. Murray’s scored in double-figures in 12 of the last 15 games and has seemed to really find his stride offensively, lets hope it continues on Saturday night.
Stay tuned to Dig In Denver for postgame coverage.