Gallinari scores season-high 24 as Nuggets end streak
NUGGETS 106, SIXERS 98
philadelphia» Two days earlier, the Nuggets left Salt Lake City, beaten by the Utah Jazz but encouraged by the process. They felt they had regained a bit of themselves that they lost in a flurry of losses. Turns out they were right. There were no moral victories Monday night in Philadelphia, only a real one. The Nuggets’ 10698 win over the 76ers snapped a three-game losing streak but, most important, gave them a chance to exhale and regroup after losing five of six coming into the game.
“We talked about it. We knew we had to get the win,” Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari said. “We were able to execute the game, especially on the defensive end throughout the whole game, and I thought we did a good job with that.”
It was a grind. Another bad first quarter (with Denver down 27-18) featured nine turnovers to kick things off. But the Nuggets got steadily better from there. They outscored Philadelphia in each of the final three quarters.
It wasn’t until late in the third, however, that the Nuggets took their first lead of the game. Gallinari’s free throws gave them a brief 64-63 lead — the Sixers came right back with a 3-pointer — but
the momentum had shifted to the men in powder blue.
The Nuggets took a fourpoint lead into the fourth quarter and built that advantage to 11. Philadelphia rallied to make a game of it down the stretch, but the Nuggets were able to finish things off and get the much-needed win.
“You have to take a deep breath, enjoy the win and understand why you win,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “When we win is when we defend at a high level for four quarters. We have lot of different guys that can step up and help you win. It’s nice to get on that bus to New York City (for Wednesday’s game at Brooklyn against the Nets) off a win.”
The win was powered by a number of factors. First, defensively the Nuggets had to take care of Philadelphia’s leading scorer, rookie center Joel Embiid. No player in the league scores a higher percentage of his team’s points than Embiid, so any chance at winning had to start with slowing him down. The Nuggets did just that. He made a couple of shots late to finish with 16 points on 5-of-15 shooting, but he was not the factor he had been early this season. With Embiid struggling, Philadelphia was forced to find offense elsewhere, and that isn’t a formula the Sixers are used to.
Next was getting a seasonhigh 24 points from Gallinari. And he got them the Gallo way — by repeatedly getting to the free-throw line. He scored 11 of his total at the charity stripe, which helped the Nuggets stay on schedule offensively.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Gallinari said. “So I thought I did a good job with that. I’m just glad we got this ‘W,’ because we needed it more than anything.”
Then, the Nuggets caught a big game from Jamal Murray, the November NBA Western Conference rookie of the month, who had cooled off a bit of late. He heated up Monday, scoring 17 of his 22 points in the first half. He made three 3-pointers. Without his first-half shooting, Denver halftime deficit would most certainly have been larger than the two points it turned out to be.
“(The win) was big,” Murray said. “Losing three straight, we just needed to get a win.”
The Nuggets’ Will Barton splits the defense of the 76ers’ Joel Embiid, left, and Dario Saric to put up a shot Monday night in Philadelphia. Matt Slocum, The Associated Press