Joel Embiid misses 4th consecutive game in Denver as 76ers make him a late scratch with sore knee

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid (21) shoots next to Indiana Pacers' Myles Turner (33) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

DENVER (AP) — Philadelphia star Joel Embiid missed the 76ers' game at Denver for a fourth consecutive season Saturday after the team's medical staff determined he shouldn't play.

The Sixers scratched Embiid minutes before tipoff after he had discomfort in his balky left knee during warmups. It denied basketball fans another marquee matchup with Nikola Jokic and the defending NBA champion Nuggets.

With Embiid in the Sixers' locker room, the Ball Arena crowd broke out into chants of “Where's Embiid?” as the Nuggets opened their game against the short-handed Sixers with a 13-4 run.

Also sitting out at Denver were Tyrese Maxey (sprained left ankle), Tobias Harris (illness) and Mo Bamba (inflamed right knee).

This marks Embiid's 11th game he has missed this season. He can only miss six more to remain eligible for the league's awards, including MVP, which he won last year for the first time while denying Jokic a third consecutive such honor.

Embiid wasn't listed on the injury report Saturday and he was preparing to play in Denver for the first time since Nov. 8, 2019.

His last four matchups with Jokic were in Philadelphia, including a 126-121 Sixers win on Jan. 16 in which Embiid had 41 points and 10 assists to Jokic’s 25 points and 19 rebounds in a matchup of the last two NBA MVPs.

Embiid was mocked last year with “Missing Person” signs in the stands at Ball Arena after he sat out the Sixers’ game in Denver with a sore right calf, leading to accusations he was ducking Jokic.

He beat out Jokic for the MVP honor last season but the Sixers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs while Jokic led the Nuggets to the franchise's first NBA championship with Jokic winning Finals MVP honors.

Embiid and Jokic have jockeyed for MVP front-runner status again this season, and Embiid's latest “DNP” in Denver could hurt his chances of repeating even if he plays enough games to qualify.

Earlier this month, Embiid said he wouldn’t force himself to play more games to meet the NBA MVP requirement if he’s not healthy enough to play. The new collective bargaining agreement requires players in most instances to play in 65 regular-season games to be eligible for awards such as MVP.

Embiid, who has met that threshold only twice when he played a career-best 68 games in 2021-22 and 66 games last season, said if he can’t meet the requirement, “then so be it.”