Philly treys defeat Denver
Nuggets coach Michael Malone always warns about these games.
The games against teams with a worse record than the Nuggets. The games against teams supposedly tired, coming into Denver on the second of a back-to-back set. The games where injuries severely deplete the opponent’s roster.
Those are “minefield” games, the games a team is “supposed” to win. Friday night, it was the game the Nuggets did not win. The Philadelphia 76ers rolled into the Pepsi Center and put on a 3-point shooting show while posting a 124-122 victory.
“I think when you win a few games, you start to feel pretty good about yourself and you forget why you’ve been winning games,” Malone said. “We’re not a team that can just show up.”
Both teams were productive from the arc, but the 76ers were borderline unconscious from the arc, nailing 3-pointers left and right until they reached 16 on the night. Not only did they make that many, which were just short of a season high for a Denver opponent, they hit a big percentage of them — .485, to be exact.
And with that as the foundation, the Nuggets never could quite catch and pass the 76ers, who never led by more than 10 points but were almost always leading. The Nuggets tried to counter with 3point shooting of their own (going 11-of-27), but 33 points at the arc didn’t trump 48.
“Our defense was nonexistent tonight,” Malone said.
The Nuggets made a game of it down the stretch, however, cutting the 76ers’ lead to one point (114-113) on a Wilson Chandler jump shot with 1:44 remaining. But the 76ers answered with — what else? — a 3-pointer, made by T.J. McConnell, who had three treys as part of a big night with 17 points and eight assists.
But the game wound toward a photo finish. Denver’s Nikola Jokic tied the score 117-117 on free throws with 49.4 seconds left in the game.
Joel Embiid made 1-of-2 free throws with 31.5 seconds remaining, putting the 76ers back up by one. Embiid made it stand by stripping Jokic of the ball as he
went up for a shot on the Nuggets’ ensuing possession, then got the ball and was fouled. He made both free throws, putting Philadelphia ahead 120-117.
The Nuggets opted to go for two right away and stretch the game out. Danilo Gallinari flew in for a dunk with 10.1 seconds remaining, and the Nuggets trailed 120-119. Robert Covington was fouled and made two free throws to put Philadelphia’s lead back at three.
Then, the 76ers did some fouling of their own. They hacked Jokic before the Nuggets could get up a 3-point shot. He made 1-of-2 free throws, intentionally missing the second, but Philadelphia got possession of the ball. Two more Embiid free throws gave the 76ers a four-point lead they did not relinquish.
“It’s hard to win any game doing that; we can’t just keep thinking we’re outscoring people,” said Denver’s Will Barton. “We’ve got to take more pride in our defense.”
Embiid was the story down the stretch, making five consecutive free throws and also making a big defensive play to keep the 76ers in front. It was the first time they won on the second of a back-to-back set this season.
Jokic led all scorers with 25 points, and he grabbed seven rebounds. Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay finished with 22 points, five assists and four rebounds. Seven Nuggets scored in double figures.
Embiid and Ersan Ilyasova led the 76ers with 23 points apiece.
Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid tries to block Denver’s Jusuf Nurkic from scoring on this play at the Pepsi Center on Friday night. The 76ers improved to 8-24 with their 124-122 win over the Nuggets. David Zalubowski, The Associated Press