Just three days into the second half and we already have our first major injury. Joel Embiid hyperextended his left knee after landing on it awkwardly in Philadelphia’s 127-101 win over Washington on Friday. The injury is not serious, but Embiid will miss an extended period of time, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania:
Two to three weeks might not seem like a long time, but in a condensed second half this could be quite a blow to the 76ers' quest for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Should Embiid miss the entire three-week timeline, that it put him on the shelf for games against the Bucks, Lakers, Clippers and Nuggets during a West Coast trip the team embarks on next week. Brooklyn trails Philadelphia by just one game in the Eastern Conference, and Milwaukee by just 2.5 games. Yes, the overall goal is the NBA Finals, but falling into the second or third seed means a second-round series with a team like Milwaukee, something I am sure Philadelphia would like to avoid.
Then there are the ramifications of the MVP race. Embiid had become the favorite to win the award at quite a few shops, but this extended absence opens the door for quite a few players to gain ground over the next two months. As of this morning, FanDuel was one of the only shops with MVP odds still on the board, and LeBron James was listed as the + 150 favorite to win the award, followed by Nikola Jokic at + 230 and Embiid at + 600.
Should Embiid miss the whole three weeks that would mean 18 games missed for the MVP candidate, or a quarter of the season. Is 75% of a season enough to win the award in voters eyes?
Updated injury reports can be found here.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
*Indicates team is on the second leg of a back-to-back
The Main Event
Dallas Mavericks at *Denver Nuggets (-2.5, 226.5)
The condensed nature of the second-half schedule is front-and-center here, as the Nuggets find themselves on the second leg of a back-to-back while the Mavericks are playing in their third game in four nights. Dallas played it safe with its stars last time out, resting both Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic on Thursday against the Thunder, so fatigue should not be a massive piece of the handicap here, at least for Dallas.
Denver got a dramatic win over Memphis last night thanks to Nikola Jokic’s contest of Ja Morant’s potential game-winner in the waning seconds. It was a solid performance for the Nuggets defense, which gave up just 1.042 points per possession and held the Grizzlies to 11-of-30 shooting from the all-important short mid-range area of the floor. The win was the fifth straight for the Nuggets, who are 4-1 ATS over this run while averaging 119.5 points every 100 possessions, and that offensive play is where the analysis for this game begins.