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Neither Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid nor Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić seems to care much about the rivalry between the two superstars, per comments the former player made to reporters Saturday (h/t Nick Kosmider of The Athletic).
“It’s funny because (on) Twitter, they have a war going on between Philly fans and Denver fans. And it’s funny because both of us are just like, ‘Who cares?’ We just want to play basketball and win some games. But he deserves (the title of best in the NBA). Until you knock him down, that’s the best in the league, and he’s the Finals MVP. So until someone else takes that away, then you can claim that.”
Saturday’s long-awaited showdown between last year’s NBA regular-season MVP (Embiid) and Finals MVP (Jokić) did not occur after Embiid became a late scratch due to left knee soreness. Jokić’s 26-point, 16-rebound effort led the host Nuggets to a 111-105 win over the 76ers.
After the game, Jokić made sure to give the NBA’s leading scorer (36.0 PPG) his due credit, telling ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth (h/t Joey Linn of Inside the Nuggets):
“If you’re a basketball fan or a soccer fan or NFL fan, the things that he’s doing right now, it’s historic, and we need to appreciate that…Whether you’re a Denver fan or whatever fan, I think you need to appreciate what he is doing.”
Embiid has now said multiple times that Jokić is the best player in the league, noting his stating as reigning champion and Finals MVP.
The two squared off earlier this year, with Embiid dropping 47 points and 18 boards in a 126-119 home win. Jokić ended with 24 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
If they are to face off again this year, then it will have to be in the NBA Finals with both of their teams’ regular-season matchups now complete.