Prior to the season, many people expected the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets to contend for the top seed in their respective conferences. Therefore, it is no surprise that both teams have solid 5-2 records so far as they head into a matchup with each other in Denver today (9 p.m. ET Friday).
Philadelphia won its first five games before a loss to the Phoenix Suns without Joel Embiid and a close loss to the Utah Jazz. The Nuggets won their first three games, then lost two contests and then had two excellent defensive showings in wins against the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat.
This contest should be a competitive one, even though the 76ers will be without star point guard Ben Simmons, who is nursing a shoulder injury. Let’s check on some key questions surrounding the game before concluding with our Philadelphia 76ers vs Denver Nuggets predictions.
Will Raul Neto Step Up in Ben Simmons’ Absence?
Without Simmons, the player projected to receive the biggest bump in minutes is point guard Raul Neto. He is not nearly as skilled with the ball or on defense as Ben Simmons, but he can run the offense and hit open shots if necessary.
Neto has never been particularly good with avoiding turnovers, as he does cough the ball up more than you would like for a guy who doesn’t create a ton of good shot opportunities for himself or others. In this game, what he needs to do is bring the ball safely into the frontcourt, initiate the offense, hit open shots and play pesky defense. Philadelphia would love for him to chip in 10 points, five assists and two steals on good shooting efficiency with one or fewer turnovers.
However, if Neto can’t find his outside stroke or the Nuggets rattle with their defensive pressure, this could be a tough game for the Sixers.
Which Superstar Big Man Can Defend With Fouling?
This season, both the Sixers’ Joel Embiid and the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic have had games where foul trouble has plagued them. That has been a big factor in both guys averaging fewer than 30 minutes per game, which is not ideal considering both interior beasts are clearly the best player on their teams.
Embiid and Jokic will see a lot of time guarding each other and competing with each other for positioning underneath. The challenge for both of them and their massive frames will be staying physical with each other in a way that doesn’t draw whistles from referees.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the big man who is able to play more minutes in this game will be the one on the winning team. The areas in which both of these big men affect their teams are just so important, and neither squad will fare well if they have to go long stretches without the services of their superstar bigs.
Are We Going to Get Good Will Barton or Bad Will Barton?
The Nuggets’ Barton is one of the most confusing players to watch in the NBA. When he’s on, he’s hitting shots from all over the floor, defending consistently and helping in the rebounding effort. When he’s off, it’s very noticeable because he doesn’t stop shooting blanks from the outside and he’s just so out of control on both ends.
So far this season, though, he has looked healthy and under control. In his last three games, Barton has averaged 15.7 points, 10 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1 steal per game on respectable efficiency.
Philadelphia’s depth and offensive balance isn’t great, especially with Simmons injured. If Barton can keep playing at this level, he gives the Nuggets an extra offensive gear that the Sixers might not be able to reach.
Our Preview’s Philadelphia 76ers vs Denver Nuggets Betting Picks & Predictions
I do like the Nuggets in this matchup. Joel Embiid has been better than Jokic so far this season, but they are still evenly matched in general, and Jokic has considerably more offensive options to ease his burden. Embiid could commit some fouls out of fatigue as he is forced to carry a bigger load.
These are both teams that play much better at home. Both squads were top-three seeds in their conferences last year, but they were still below .500 teams on the road. That favors the Nuggets here. So these are the Philadelphia 76ers vs Denver Nuggets predictions for this NBA Friday night game preview:
- The Nuggets are favored by 5pts in this matchup by all of the best United States’ online sportsbooks. I would suggest wagering money on Denver-5pts on the spread @ -110 with Bovada, Intertops, Bookmaker or BetOnline.
- No Ben Simmons in this game means the Sixers will play at a much slower pace than normal. Most of the rest of the roster is better playing offensive in half-court situations. Both teams are strong on the defensive end, as well. It could be smart to bet the under 212.5 total points @ -110 with Intertops. It is under 212pts for the same odds with the other bookies.