NUGGETS

Joel Embiid does the Nuggets a huge favor, Denver climbs into first

Apr 2, 2024, 9:39 PM

DENVER—The Denver Nuggets are back in first place Tuesday night thanks to a little help from old rival Joel Embiid.

The reigning NBA MVP returned Tuesday after missing all of February and March with a knee injury. And the game he came back for was a home matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Without both Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams, the Chet Holmgren-led team put up a fight but lost in the last minute 109-105 to the Philadelphia 76ers, who got 24 points and some big plays down the stretch from Embiid.

Across the country, the winner of the two MVPs before that and the frontrunner for this year’s award Nikola Jokic, was able to handle the scrappy San Antonio Spurs 110-105, who got 23 points, 15 rebounds, nine blocks and eight assists from the soon-to-be Rookie of the Year Victor Wembanyama.

While Minnesota was able to pick up a win, the three-headed monster atop the West is now all tied in the lost column at 23. But because the Nuggets have played and won one more game than the T-Wolves and Thunder, Denver goes to bed in first place with 53 wins and six games to play. One of those contests will be against Minnesota in the Mile High City. The Thunder are on a back-to-back, playing the league-leading Boston Celtics on Wednesday and will likely be without SGA again.

It’s unlikely and more hopeful than anything but if Denver can finish 6-0, there’s a real chance the Nuggets can still score the No. 1 seed. That would mean they finished their season 23-4 after the All-Star Break.

The Nuggets got the No. 1 seed last year and it was key in their 16-4 run to the title, only losing once at home. Denver may not get the No. 1 seed as they need some help from OKC but even securing the No. 2 seed, which is still in their control would be helpful. The No. 2 seed would mean home-court advantage in at least the first two rounds.

If it sounds like a lot of folks are injured and or resting, Jamal Murray missed a sixth-straight game for the Nuggets on Tuesday. Denver hits the road after their five-game homestand ends, they’re taking on the fourth-place Clippers on Thursday.

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