Despite not having Joel Embiid and James Harden against the Western Conference’s top-seeded Nuggets, the 76ers nearly came back to steal a win on Monday in Denver.
It’s been a rough past week for Philadelphia, going 1-3 over their road trip so far while their top two stars deal with injury issues.
[Related: James Harden & Joel Embiid’s Health Should be Priority for 76ers]
At this point, the focus is likely on the playoffs. With that being said, here are three takeaways from Monday night’s game for the 76ers.
Deep Bench Nearly Comes Back
After the white flag had already been raised for the 76ers, they nearly pulled off an impossible win.
Third-unit players like Furkan Korkmaz, Jaden Springer and Montrezl Harrell had been entered into the game against the Nuggets starters with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Yet with 28 seconds left, a dunk from Harrell made it a three point game. Free throws from Jeff Green closed it out for Denver, though.
A loss is a loss, but that was an encouraging sign for Philadelphia. Showing fight against a top team, down both stars, shows that every guy on the team wants to win and can bring energy.
There’s no giving up in this squad, even through the losses. This isn’t the first time the 76ers have erased a large deficit, and doing so with the third unit makes it even more impressive.
Maxey, Reed, Harris Stand Out
Not having Embiid or Harden gave others a chance to step up. Three guys in particular made the most of the opportunity.
Tyrese Maxey went for 29 points, five assists and three steals. Him being able to lead the offense by attacking the basket is not only important when everyone is healthy, but especially when other players are out.
The 76ers need to do a better job at finding the guy with the hot hand. Maxey couldn’t stop scoring early on, but didn’t see the ball as much as the game progressed.
Meanwhile, Paul Reed continued to prove why he should be the team’s backup center. Despite Dewayne Dedmon getting the start, along with the team rolling with PJ Tucker at the five for some minutes, Reed totaled 16 points, nine rebounds and two steals while shooting 100% from the field in 17 minutes.
Time and time again, Reed is proving his worth. Yet for whatever reason, Doc Rivers hasn’t rewarded him with consistent minutes. He absolutely should be the backup center going forward; his finishing, rebounding and energy are too valuable to not be.
Finally, Tobias Harris had a solid night with 16 points and five rebounds, showing he can still create his own looks without Harden and Embiid.
Does Embiid Sitting Hurt MVP Chances?
Perhaps the biggest storyline from last night’s NBA games was the disappointment of Embiid missing the highly-anticipated MVP matchup against Nikola Jokic.
A calf issue has bothered Embiid for a few weeks. Every sign pointed to him playing on Monday, but the team decided otherwise pregame.
While it makes sense for him to rest his legs before the playoffs objectively, there’s no doubt MVP voters won’t forget that he missed a big opportunity to go head-to-head with Jokic.
Missing one game won’t make all the difference. Embiid can still come back and dominate the last few weeks of the season, but missing Monday’s game may have hurt his chances for the award a bit.
That almost certainly isn’t his main goal though. Resting both him and Harden as much as they need is essential for a deep playoff run.
Featured image courtesy of Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
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