The battle between the MVP favorites fell apart on Monday when Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid was ruled out against Nuggets and star Nikola Jokic.
Embiid has pain in his right calf. He was at the team’s game Monday morning, but a trainer wrapped a large ice pack on his right leg and the 76ers decided to sit him out in Denver, their third game in four nights.
Embiid sat out the second half against Chicago last week with calf tightness, but played back-to-back games on the 76ers’ Western road trip over the weekend, scoring 46 points in a 120-112 loss to Golden State on Friday night and 28 points in a 125 loss -105 in Phoenix 24 hours later.
Embiid, who finished second to Jokic in Most Valuable Player voting each of the last two seasons, made a late effort to dethrone Jokic, though this is the 14th game he has missed this season.
Embiid leads the NBA with an average of 33.3 points, along with an average of 10.2 rebounds. The 76ers (49-25) trail Milwaukee and Boston in the Eastern Conference.
Jokic is almost averaging a triple-double with 24.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and 9.9 assists per game. The Nuggets (50-24) are atop the Western Conference, three games ahead of Memphis entering Monday night’s action.
Several sportsbooks responded to Embiid’s dominant stretch after the All-Star Game by bumping him ahead of Jokic as a slight MVP favorite.
Several stars have missed games at the Ball Arena this season, though Giannis Antetokounmpo, another MVP candidate, played in Milwaukee’s 129-106 loss to Denver on Saturday, matching Jokic’s 31 points.
James Harden, the league leader in assists (10.8), also participated in the 76ers’ shootout and is expected to return from a sore Achilles against the Nuggets. He is officially listed as a suspect, as is Michael Porter Jr. from Denver (heels).
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