76ers win again without Embiid
DENVER — Jerryd Bayless isn’t Philadelphia’s go-to guy on offense, but when he got the chance, the veteran came through.
Bayless scored eight of his 14 points in the first 1:06 of the fourth quarter to start a decisive run and the 76ers defeated the Denver Nuggets 107-102 on Saturday night.
Dario Saric had 20 points and nine rebounds, JJ Redick scored 18 points and Robert Covington had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Philadelphia (16-19).
Bayless, who had 14 points combined over the previous three games, matched that in a total span of 3:56. He scored six straight points toward the end of the third quarter and then got hot at the start of the fourth.
“It was a mix of a lot of things,” Bayless said. “I got some plays called and tried to take advantage of it. My teammates really helped and (coach) Brett (Brown) made some calls for me.”
Jamal Murray led the Nuggets with 31 points, Nikola Jokic had 19 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, and Gary Harris added 17 points for Denver (19-17).
Trey Lyles added 16 points and eight rebounds for the Nuggets, who have lost two of their last three home games.
The Sixers improved to 2-7 without center Joel Embiid. Embiid flew straight from Portland to Phoenix, where Philadelphia plays on Sunday night. Brown said Embiid went through a workout Saturday and will be ready to go against the Suns.
He’ll join a team on a high after winning in a tough environment.
“It feels good. It was a big one, we needed this, and now we’ve just got to keep trending like this in the right direction,” Bayless said.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone was leery of playing the Sixers without their star.
“I was scared. I did not have a good feeling all day because I know what happens when you have a star out,” he said. “You can tell them not to relax but at the end of the day those guys have good players.”
Philadelphia missed its first nine shots of the third quarter — and 10 in a row overall — when the Nuggets went on an 11-0 run to take a 14-point lead. The Sixers didn’t get their first points of the second half until nearly five minutes in, and those came on free throws by Saric.
Saric broke the field-goal drought with a 3-pointer as Philadelphia responded with 11 straight points and a 25-4 run to make it take a seven-point lead late in the third quarter.
During the run, the Sixers began intentionally fouling Mason Plumlee, a 40.2 shooter from the line, to disrupt Denver’s offense.
“We tried to foul Mason Plumlee and I think that it helped us,” Brown said. “You’re always staring at 2 minutes up because you can’t do it after that unless he has the ball. I thought we did a pretty good job of fouling him prior to the 2 minutes, and we did a good job of fouling him when he had the ball.”
The strategy worked. Plumlee was 1 of 7 from the line in the last 2:41 of the third when Philadelphia went ahead for good.
“It’s inexcusable,” Plumlee said. “You’ve got to make free throws.”
The run extended to 33-7 into the fourth thanks to Bayless, who hit a 3-pointer and two field goals to turn a three-point lead into a 91-80 advantage.
Murray said Philadelphia’s defense wasn’t the difference but the Nuggets’ offense went cold.
“Guys that normally make shots missed them today,” he said.
Jokic made two free throws with 1:01 left to get Denver within 103-100 but Will Barton missed a tying 3-pointer with 25 seconds left.
Covington hit two free throws with 19.5 seconds left and iced it with a dunk.
NOTES: Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said the decision to sit C Joel Embiid on one end of back-to-back games is medical. “It’s all pointed toward health,” Brown said. “When you play a game and you have a chance to have a day or multiple days in between that can better allow him to play whatever game it’ll play out to be, then that’s the answer. It’s really as simple as that.” ... Denver G Malik Beasley (right elbow sprain) was dressed and available. F Juancho Hernangomez (illness) was inactive. ... The Nuggets continue their homestand Wednesday against Phoenix while Philadelphia wraps up its five-game road trip Sunday against the Suns.