A three-game run of stifling defense came to an end in an overtime loss at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, but the Denver Nuggets are hoping a few days off can get them back in gear. The Nuggets will try to bounce back when they host the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.
Denver allowed 85 points or fewer in three consecutive wins, including a 96-81 triumph over the defending champion Golden State Warriors, but didn’t start defending until after allowing 71 points in the first half to the Timberwolves and ended up falling 128-125 in overtime. “That second half was Denver Nuggets basketball,” coach Michael Malone told reporters. “That was defending. That was rebounding. That was running. That was attacking. And the ball moved. That was a fun, exciting team to watch, and we gave ourselves a chance.” Philadelphia failed to carry the momentum from a Christmas Day win as the road trip shifted out west, and they fell for the 10th time in 12 games with a 114-110 loss at Portland on Thursday. “We just didn’t capitalize,” rookie point guard Ben Simmons told reporters after his team squandered an 18-point lead. “We didn’t run our plays, didn’t get stops, rebounds. It just came down to playing hard.”
TV: 9 p.m. ET, NBA TV, NBCS Philadelphia, Altitude (Denver)
ABOUT THE 76ERS (15-19): Philadelphia is not finding the win column as often as earlier in the season, but its young players continue to perform. Center Joel Embiid followed up a 25-point effort at New York on Christmas with 29 points at Portland but is expected to be held out on Saturday with the 76ers facing a back-to-back. Embiid’s absence could leave more shots for Dario Saric, who went for 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting in Thursday’s setback and is averaging 18 points over the last six games.
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (19-16): Denver got another offensive boost on Wednesday from reserve forward Trey Lyles, who collected 23 points and 10 rebounds in the win - his seventh straight game scoring in double figures. Lyles finally got some help on the second unit from Will Barton, who scored 28 points in the loss after scoring in single figures in five of his previous seven games and contributed to a the second-half comeback effort. “Down 19 points in the second half, second night of a back-to-back, we could easily have folded,” Malone told reporters. “We could have rolled over. I like the fact that our guys never did that.”
1. Nuggets SG Jamal Murray is averaging 18.2 points in December to raise his season mark to 15.3.
2. 76ers SF Robert Covington (finger) left Thursday’s game and is day-to-day.
3. Philadelphia snapped a three-game losing streak in the series with a 124-122 win at Denver last season.
PREDICTION: 76ers 102, Nuggets 97