Sixers without Joel Embiid meet Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets.

The Denver Nuggets have passed one test and now face another, despite the fact that their opponent is without its greatest player.

Denver (50-24) produced a massive second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. On Monday night, the Nuggets will play the Philadelphia 76ers, another elite Eastern Conference club.

The Sixers trail Milwaukee by 4 games

Philadelphia (49-25) suffered a 20-point setback against Phoenix on Saturday night, their second is consecutive and third in the previous four games. The Sixers trail Milwaukee by four games for the Eastern Conference’s top spot and are second in the Atlantic Division.

James Harden, who has missed three games with an Achilles injury, is a contributing factor to Philadelphia’s struggles. Harden averages 21.4 points per game and leads the NBA with 10.2 assists per game.

Harden is reportedly expected to play against the Nuggets, but point guard coach Doc Rivers will prioritize the point guard’s health.

Saturday, Rivers stated, “You want them to get well, and you don’t want coaches to force them to play or put pressure on them.” “We must be healthy when it matters. If this implies that James will not play on Monday, I have no objections. We require his return, but only for the long haul. We do not want him to be in and out of the lineup, especially at this stage of the season.”

The showdown between MVP hopefuls Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic was a subplot of Monday’s game. Embiid (calf) will reportedly miss the rest of the 76ers’ schedule due to precautionary measures.

Embiid, who leads the NBA in scoring with 33.3 points per game, had a statement game on January 28 in Philadelphia. Embiid scored 47 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in a 126-119 victory.

Jokic seemed to be the frontrunner for a third consecutive MVP title

Jokic, on the other hand, is eight assists shy of averaging a triple-double this season and is coming off a 31-point, 11-assist effort against the Bucks. Until Embiid’s recent performance, Jokic seemed to be the frontrunner for a third consecutive MVP title.

While a Jokic MVP award would be a bonus, the Nuggets’ primary objective is to secure the top seed in the Western Conference. They lead Memphis by 3 1/2 games with eight games remaining, and a victory over Philadelphia would bring them closer.

Denver has rebounded from a recent four-game losing run with three consecutive victories and may extend that streak to five if it sweeps this brief homestand. Coach Michael Malone does not, however, take anything for granted.

“I am anxious about everything. I never make assumptions, “Malone stated. I believe that, with (eight) games remaining, the previous seven or eight games in Denver have been quite unusual for us.

The Nuggets dominated the Bucks in the second half, outscoring them 66-40. Jamal Murray, who is considered the key to a deep playoff run, scored 26 points and is rediscovering his stroke down the stretch, but the team’s defense made the coach happy.

“When we play defense at a high level and rotate, and everyone knows what they’re doing, we’re difficult to defeat,” he remarked.