Ben Simmons will miss his fourth regular-season game in the last three seasons Friday night when the Sixers play the Nuggets in Denver.
Here are the essentials for tonight's game between two 5-2 teams:
Complete coverage of the Philadelphia 76ers and their rivals in the NBA from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
When: 9 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 8:30 p.m.
Where: Pepsi Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app
And here are three storylines to watch:
Simmons is out tonight with a Grade 1 AC joint sprain and will be re-evaluated before the Sixers' game Sunday vs. the Charlotte Hornets. He sustained the injury in the first quarter Wednesday against the Jazz.
When Simmons left vs. Utah, Furkan Korkmaz started the second half. Raul Neto also stepped into a prominent role and played 30 minutes. He'd only played more in a game once over the past three seasons, but Neto did well overall. He had 11 points on 5 for 11 shooting, four assists, three steals and four turnovers, and he also played solid defense against Donovan Mitchell.
If Brett Brown intends to continue giving Neto major minutes without Simmons, he might also consider giving Trey Burke his first action of the regular season to spell the Brazilian point guard.
Embiid vs. Jokic
Nikola Jokic beat Joel Embiid out for the All-NBA First Team center spot last season.
The Nuggets' big man hasn't started this year as well, though. His "general demeanor" has been concerning, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post, and Jokic acknowledged to reporters Thursday he needs to improve his one-on-one defense. Jokic's offensive production is down, too, as he's averaging 14.9 points on 46 percent shooting, 9.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists.
Embiid had 27 points and 16 rebounds in his return from a two-game suspension for a fight with Karl-Anthony Towns, but he wasn't at his peak, shooting 5 of 16 from the floor and appearing to fatigue at times - he told reporters postgame that the high elevation in Utah was a factor.
Perhaps Embiid and Jokic will bring the best out of each other Friday.
The end of the road
Friday's game marks the end of the Sixers' four-game West Coast trip, and the schedule looks much easier once this trip concludes.
The Sixers' next six games are against the Hornets, Cavs, Magic, Thunder, Cavs (again) and Knicks. None of those five teams are currently above .500, and their combined record is 12-27.
While the Sixers would prefer to head home on a winning note, it's not as if a three-game losing streak would eliminate their hopes of earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Simmons' health and larger questions about topics like the structure of the offense and pick-and-roll defense are of greater importance than the result in Denver.
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