LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Nikola Jokic won his duel with potential MVP successor Joel Embiid as the Denver Nuggets came from behind to score a 114-110 road victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.
The much-anticipated showdown between reigning NBA MVP Jokic and Sixers ace Embiid – seen as the front-runner for this year’s award – did not disappoint.
Serbian star Jokic finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists as Denver halted their two-game losing streak to improve to 41-28.
Embiid led the scoring for Philadelphia with 34 points while James Harden added 24.
Denver maintain their sixth place position in the Western Conference – the last of the automatic playoff berths.
Jokic was backed with 21 points from Bones Hyland while Will Barton chipped in with 20 points.
A Denver victory had looked like an unlikely outcome after the Sixers poured on the points in the first quarter, leading by 15 going into the second period.
The Sixers lead jumped out to 19 points at one stage in the second quarter before Barton (10 points) and Jokic (seven) helped cut the deficit to just five points at the break.
Hyland then erupted for 12 of his 31 points in the final quarter – all from three-point range – as Denver outscored the Sixers 33-22 to wrap up the win. Crucially, Denver’s defence bottled up Embiid and Harden in the fourth quarter to staunch the Sixers scoring, restricting the Philadelphia stars to a combined 11 points.