It’s fun watching Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid play against each other, especially since it’s such a rare occasion. Before their latest matchup, they hadn’t gone head-to-head in an astounding 825 days. Embiid, who is around 11 months older than Jokic, had a 4-1 record in the five games they had played together up to that point.
The Serbian pulled one back to make it 4-2 with a typical stat line of 22 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two blocks in a 113-110 victory. Embiid was just as dangerous, finishing the game with 34 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks.
It’s unfortunate that they’ve played against each other so rarely, thanks to being on opposite conferences. Two scheduled games a year, and then other setbacks stop them from seeing each other more often during their rise to prominence has made the matchup a rare treat. The last time they faced off before this week was on December 10, 2019.
I particularly enjoy watching them battle because the two men are the best examples of the modern NBA center. Both are strong and skilled, but each lean to one side. Embiid is an unstoppable monster, who can bully his way down low. However, he’s also continued to develop a softer shooting touch around the rim.
On top of that, Embiid continues to work on his three-pointer, and is more than capable of punishing teams for leaving him open.
Jokic, on the other hand, is probably the most skilled big man to have played the game so far. That’s no knock on his precursors like Arvydas Sabonis, who still found success in the NBA even though he was playing with severely damaged knees by the time he arrived. I just think Jokic is special to watch on any given night.
Jokic is also strong and will fuck your day up if you mess with him, just ask Markief Morris. While he might not be as fast as Embiid, and arguably has less raw power, there’s no denying that he has a skill advantage and also has better court vision. There are few guards that can pass as good as the Joker, and his 6’11 frame makes it so easy for him to find his teammates.
Jokic may also have some of the most ungraceful movement I’ve ever seen, and that’s not a knock on him. He just seems to move slowly or clumsily a lot, but his ability to control his body and take advantage of the space he does find is something else. Check out this play in the dying moments of the game, where he tried to bait Embiid into his sixth foul, didn’t get it, but still made a goofy-ass shot.
Again, I think it’s really sad that we won’t ever get to see them face off more than twice in a season unless the Nuggets and Sixers somehow both make the NBA Finals. It’s not impossible, and could happen at some point in the next couple of years, considering that both are still on the right side of 30, but making it to the end of June is the hardest thing to do in the league. The two do seem to have a real mutual respect for each other, so it sucks that they’ve been so limited in their on-court battles.
Let’s just savor the chances that we do get to watch them play against each other. They seem to enjoy it, and so should all of us.