Denver Nuggets 100, Philadelphia 76ers 97: Three takeaways

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

A 21-point deficit didn’t stop the Denver Nuggets from securing one of the most improbable victories Pepsi Center fans will see all season. The Nuggets came back to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers 100-97 on the back of a 35-13 advantage in the fourth quarter. The 21-point comeback marked Denver's largest regular-season fourth-quarter comeback in franchise history.

"I think this speaks volumes," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. "We had that never quit mentality. One basket, one stop at a time. Down the stretch, our group made big play after big play. I loved the fight of our group."

Denver’s comeback attempt began with a 12-4 run to open the third quarter. With shots starting to fall, Denver’s offense worked its way into a groove to open the second half. Although the Nuggets were able to get within six points, Philadelphia recovered with a quick run to bring the lead back to double-digits. A 17-4 run by Philadelphia extended Denver’s deficit to 19 at the end of the third quarter.

However, the Nuggets wouldn’t go down without a fight. A 10-2 run to start the final quarter prompted a timeout from 76ers head coach Brett Brown as Denver reduced the deficit to 11. The Nuggets continued to chip away at the lead and with just under five minutes remaining, the 76ers led by just eight. The Nuggets made a furious comeback in the closing minutes of the game, as Denver’s active defense led to some key baskets in transition.

Somehow, Denver was able to cut the deficit to just one with thirteen seconds remaining, which was followed by a game-winner from Nikola Jokić with 1.2 seconds remaining. Philadelphia wasn’t able to properly inbound the ball and the Nuggets escaped with the come-from-behind victory.

Nikola Jokić scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, but none were more important than his final jumper that gave the Nuggets the lead.

"Tonight Nikola was phenomenal on both ends of the floor," Malone said. "He was aggressive throughout the game leading up to that game-winner."

The first quarter got off to a slow start as the teams struggled to generate quality looks each time down the floor. Although Denver (6-2) initially jumped out to an early 8-5 lead, the 76ers responded with a 15-6 run to gain control of the game. Philadelphia knocked down four 3-pointers in the quarter, while the Nuggets shot just 30.4 percent from the field in the frame. Despite Will Barton III’s nine points, the 76ers took a 24-18 lead into the second quarter.

Philadelphia (5-3) extended its lead to double digits early in the second quarter, prompting an early timeout from Malone. The 76ers offense found a rhythm in the middle stages of the quarter as Philadelphia opened up a 16-point lead. The 76ers finished the first half with 16 assists. The Nuggets continued to battle back during the final minutes of the first half, but the 76ers took a commanding 57-42 lead into the break. Jamal Murray led the way with 11 points in the half, but Denver shot just 37.5 percent from the field.

Here are some takeaways from Denver’s victory:

The offense woke up in the fourth quarter

Now, the Nuggets won’t have to deal with Philadelphia’s elite defense on a nightly basis. The 76ers entered play on Friday with the seventh-ranked defense but are expected to have a top five unit on that end of the floor this season. However, even without Ben Simmons playing, the Nuggets struggled from all areas of the court during the first three quarters against Philadelphia’s length and size.

The fourth quarter was another story for Denver’s offense. The Nuggets dropped 35 points in the frame and moved the ball effectively, racking up 11 assists. As a result of some key steals and blocks, the Nuggets were also able to pick up some baskets in transition during their comeback.

Jamal Murray continues nice start to season

Jamal Murray had another impressive scoring night. The 22-year-old guard scored 22 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field, while he also added 11 assists and two blocks on the defensive end.

"Jamal Murray right now is not only playing at a really high level, but I love his approach," Malone added following the win. "His focus, energy and leadership, to go along with 11 assists."

Murray has enjoyed a strong start to the season, as he entered Friday’s game with averages of 18.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Although Denver’s offense has gotten off to a slow start early in the year, Murray looks to have taken another step in his development.

An active defense kept Denver in the game

The Nuggets activity on the defensive end played just as big a role in the comeback as their offensive surge. In the end, Denver finished with 11 blocks and 10 steals in the game, with several of them coming during crunch time of the fourth quarter as the Nuggets made one final comeback attempt.

Furthermore, Denver held Philadelphia to just 13 points in the fourth quarter, which allowed for Jokić to lead the successful comeback attempt.

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