NBA

Jokic hails 'historic' Embiid after MVP tussle

By Sports Desk January 17, 2024

Nikola Jokic lauded Joel Embiid's "historic" form after the reigning NBA MVP came out on top in Tuesday's matchup between the two superstars.

Embiid finished with 41 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists, scoring 10 consecutive points in a crucial fourth-quarter run as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Denver Nuggets 126-121.

Jokic, the reigning NBA Finals MVP and two-time league MVP, scored 24 points and had 19 rebounds and three assists.

Embiid was unable to extend his 16-game streak of having at least 30 points and 10 rebounds, though only Wilt Chamberlain has had a longer such run in NBA history.

"He's a really good player," Jokic said of Embiid.

"He's playing historic right now. He's averaging 30-something points every night, and that's extremely hard to do, especially every night.

"But I mean, I'm not playing against him. I'm playing against Philadelphia. It was a good matchup."

Embiid returned the compliment Jokic's way, saying: "Both of us, we just want to play basketball and win some games.

"He deserves [the title of best player] until you knock him [off]. He's the Finals MVP. Until someone else takes that away, then you can claim that."

Not that Embiid is lacking self-confidence.

"But then again, I also believe in myself," he added with a smile. "I'll keep it at that. I've just got to get there.

"I don't think I care what people decide who's the best. I know I want to be the best, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to be the best.

"But sometimes you've got to be able to win as a team. You've got to do the best job possible to make sure that you put yourself and the team in the best position possible to win. And it seems like if you want to be the best, you've got to find a way to win. So, that's my goal."

The Sixers have won their last three games. They sit third in the Eastern Conference with a 26-13 record, behind the Milwaukee Bucks (28-12) and the Boston Celtics (31-9).

"I said it at the beginning of the season. Y'all keep talking about Boston, Milwaukee. That's fine. They might be better than us, they might be more talented than us, but I still believe we've got a chance. We just need a little bit of luck," Embiid said.

"Like I always say, we've got to be perfect. We've got to be in sync together. We've got to play with each other. It's been working pretty well this year."

Embiid's teammate Tobias Harris, who added 24 points to the Sixers' tally, added: "It was a big game for us – playing the defending champs – we wanted to see where we were at.

"We've just got to stay at it, and keep working."

Asked about playing alongside Embiid and against Jokic, Harris said: "Both of those guys are just stellar basketball players. The way they handle their business on a court, there's a reason why [the Nuggets] won a Championship last year and Joel's put in tremendous work all year."

The Nuggets have been inconsistent after going on a six-game winning streak in December, losing four of their nine outings since then.

Coach Michael Malone, though, did not seem overly concerned about Tuesday's defeat.

"This was a game that went down to the wire," he said. 

"We came up short. Joel [Embiid] is a hell of a talent."

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