When the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets clash on Friday night, the matchup to watch will be between two of the game’s best big men in Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid.

Embiid is averaging 24.2 points 11.8 rebounds and just under 2 blocks per game this season as the centerpiece of the Sixers offense. Jokic is averaging just a shade under 15 points per game 10 rebounds and 6 assists, but has made a habit of excelling against the Sixers.

He averaged 29.5 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists in the two matchups last season. Jokic didn’t have a reason for why he’s excelled against Philly, but played down that it’s because of his matchup against Embiid.

“I don’t have the real reason (for strong games against them),” Jokic told the Denver Post “I don’t go up (against) anybody. I’m just playing basketball.”

Centers around the league have been weary to be vocal about their matchups with Embiid, purely due to the Sixers big man being a master of his trolling craft and having a penchant for getting up in big spots. Simply, no one wants to give the Cameroonian wonder more fuel.

Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns tried a similar strategy of playing down the matchup.

“It’s a game about trying to find a [way] to win,” Towns said. “I know everyone wants to hype it up; that’s what sells papers. But I ain’t in the business of making y’all money. I’m in the business of getting Ws, that’s what I am.”

That ended with both big men on the ground in a highly publicized fight.

Brett Brown: Joel Embiid ‘Aware’ of Matchup With Nikola Jokic

Jokic beat Joel Embiid out for the All-NBA First Team center spot last season, something that the Sixers center has likely not forgotten about. His coach Brett Brown expects

“[Joel] is as competitive as anybody that I have coached. I know how he’s wired and how normal competitors would react…against somebody like Jokic, you would assume it’s a day that he’s aware of.”

Embiid returned from his two-game suspension for fighting Towns in a 106-104 loss to the Jazz on Wednesday. He totaled 27 points and 16 rebounds, but shot a miserable 31% from the field.

Joel Embiid Needs to Step Up With Ben Simmons Sidelined

If you’re looking for a good bet on Friday night, Joel Embiid’s over on points and rebounds is worth a long look. With Ben Simmons sidelined with a Grade 1 AC joint sprain in his right shoulder, Embiid will take on an even bigger role in the offense for the Sixers.

According to the team, Simmons will be reevaluated over the weekend, but until then, Embiid will have to shoulder the load.

Since missing his entire first season with a foot injury, Simmons has been one of the healthiest players in the league. He played 81 games his “rookie” season and then 79 a year ago.

Simmons is averaging 15 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists this season and leads the league with 3.33 steals per game. He had just 2 points, 1 rebound and 2 assists before exiting against the Jazz.

The game against the Nuggets is the final for the Sixers on a four-game Western Conference swing before returning home to see the Hornets on Nov. 10.

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