Preview: Denver Nuggets return home to face 76ers

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer

Following a quick pit stop in Dallas, the Denver Nuggets are back in the Mile High City to wrap up the week with a back-to-back set against some Eastern Conference contenders.

Denver (9-5) saw its five-game winning streak snapped against the Mavericks on Monday, despite a dominant performance from Nikola Jokić (35 points, 16 rebounds, and six assists). The Nuggets were without several key rotation players, including Will Barton who has arguably been Denver’s second-best player this season.

Now the Nuggets are back home for two games, with the first coming against a Philadelphia 76ers team that has been plagued by injuries and absences to begin the season. Following an 8-2 start, Philadelphia (8-7) has lost five in a row as key players such as Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Danny Green have been out of the lineup. According to the latest updates, Embiid and Matisse Thybulle will likely miss Thursday’s contest against the Nuggets.

Denver swept the season series against the 76ers last season.

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Attack the offensive glass

This isn’t the same 76ers team that fans have become accustomed to seeing in recent years. Instead of Philadelphia winning on the back of elite defense, the 76ers have actually had more success on the offensive end of the floor this season, ranking second in offensive rating.

However, at just 21st in defensive rating, Philadelphia has been vulnerable on the other end, most notably on the boards. The 76ers rank 29th in opponent offensive rebound percentage, allowing teams to rebound 29 percent of their missed shots.

Although Denver hasn’t been elite on the offensive glass this season (the Nuggets rank 18th in offensive rebound percentage after being in the top three in each of the previous six seasons), this could be an opportunity to climb the rankings against a 76ers team that will be without Embiid.

The battle beyond the arc

Neither team has built its offensive system around the 3-point line.

Both teams are slightly below the league average in their frequency of 3-point attempts (Denver ranks 16th at 36.8 percent, while Philadelphia is slightly below at 36.1 percent), as the two teams have a more even distribution of shot attempts.

However, the 76ers have had plenty of success when jacking up shots from deep, ranking second in the league at 38.3 percent. Against a Denver defense that has been effective in limiting 3-point attempts and makes, Philadelphia’s offense will face a quality test.

On the other end, although Denver has struggled to hit consistently from downtown, opponents haven’t when matched up against the 76ers this season. To their credit, the 76ers have done a good job in limiting 3-point attempts, but teams have shot 36.4 percent against them from beyond the arc. If the Nuggets can find a rhythm from deep, it will go a long way in giving them an edge in Thursday’s matchup.

Get out in transition

As mentioned earlier, the 76ers have struggled on the defensive end to begin the season.

A closer look at the numbers helps explain some of those struggles. Outside of the issues on the defensive glass, Philadelphia has actually been effective defensively in the halfcourt, owning the eighth-ranked halfcourt defense, per Cleaning the Glass.

However, defending in transition has been the complete opposite, as the 76ers rank 30th in their opponent’s points per 100 possessions added through transition plays. Whether off steals or live rebounds, teams have had plenty of success pushing the pace in advantage situations against Philadelphia this season.

For a Nuggets team that ranks sixth in the frequency of possessions beginning with a transition play, this is an area to attack Thursday night. Denver’s effectiveness in transition has slipped a little as the season has gone along, but the matchup against the 76ers could be the perfect opportunity to emphasize transition play.


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