Local Denver Nuggets fans will have to wait another year to watch Nikola Jokic face Joel Embiid.
The Philadelphia 76ers ruled out Embiid for Saturday's game in Denver due to left knee soreness, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The Sixers training staff reportedly watched Embiid during warm-ups and opted to sit him, making the decision minutes before tip-off.
Let's just say Nuggets fans noticed the absence.
“Where’s Embiid at?” chant breaks out at Ball Arena. pic.twitter.com/fpSlLZo04M
— Bennett Durando (@BennettDurando) January 27, 2024
If anything, they were prepared for it.
Joel Embiid - Missing Person pic.twitter.com/j7FT2YswMp
— CJ Fogler account may or may not be notable (@cjzero) January 27, 2024
The Sixers were also without Tyrese Maxey (ankle) and Tobias Harris (illness), leaving them heavily shorthanded against the 31-15 Nuggets. The Nuggets went on to win 111-105, with Jokic posting a normal day's work of 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting, 16 rebounds and seven assists.
Sporting a noticeable limp, Embiid did reach the court to embrace Jokic after the game.
Embiid and Jokic after the game 🤝
Two of the game's best. pic.twitter.com/4rDQbOr2jT
— ESPN (@espn) January 28, 2024
Of all the games Embiid could have missed this season, it's this one, a nationally televised clash between the NBA's top two MVP candidates, that will raise the most eyebrows.
Embiid hasn't played in Denver since Nov. 2019, which was the season after Jokic's first All-Star selection. The two players have since become the clear two best centers in the NBA and recently the league's top two players, finishing top two in MVP voting in each of the last three seasons. Jokic won the award in 2021 and 2022, while Embiid broke through last year.
Embiid had previously played six straight games, similar to how last year's absence in Denver broke up a 13-game streak of appearances. Neither game was on a back-to-back.
The absence is particularly unfortunate given that Embiid said he whispered, among other things, "See you in two weeks" after defeating Jokic and the Nuggets in Philadelphia 10 days ago.
Beyond the ramifications of missing Jokic and the Nuggets, this will bring Embiid's number of missed games this season up to 11. If he misses six more games, he will be ineligible for NBA awards voting, including MVP, where he is again fighting it out with Jokic. The NBA's new rules require players to play 65 games to be eligible, making 17 the magic number for elimination.