Denver Nuggets 115, Philadelphia 76ers 103: Three takeaways
The Nuggets got back to winning ways Saturday as they took care of business in a 115-103 win over a shorthanded Sixers team.
The reality of COVID-19 was very apparent in Saturday’s midday contest as Philadelphia was without four players, Seth Curry, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle and Vincent Poirier, due to health and safety protocols. Paired with injuries to Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Terrance Ferguson and Shake Milton, the Sixers were only able to dress eight players. Mike Scott was one of the eight who were made available, but he was dealing with a knee injury and didn’t play. It left Doc Rivers’ with seven healthy players: Tyrese Maxey, Isaiah Joe, Dakota Mathias, Danny Green Dwight Howard, Paul Reed and Tony Bradley.
After a competitive first half, during which there were 10 lead changes, the Nuggets utilized their depth to secure a comfortable win in the final 24 minutes of the game.
"I knew this game was going to be a challenge," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said after the game. "[When] you play a team with seven players, as much as you can talk about it and warn your guys, [it's still a challenge]. It's something that happens all of the time, so I'm thankful we're able to get out of here with a win."
Gary Harris paced the Nuggets with 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting while Nikola Jokić almost had another triple-double in under 30 mins, finishing with 15 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. Maxey had a breakout performance in extended minutes, becoming the first Sixers rookie to score over 30 in almost three years and finished with a career-high 39 points, seven reboards, and six dimes.
"Tyrese Maxey took full advantage of that opportunity tonight. He played great that young kid [and] he's going to be a special player," Malone said.
The Nuggets will now turn their attention to the first of two games in the Big Apple when they face the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday (4 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE).
Here are the takeaways:
Harris proved his 15-point outing against the Mavericks Thursday wasn’t a one-off as he had another strong offensive showing Saturday.
The Nuggets shooting guard, who has largely been known for his defense the past two seasons, was assertive from tip-off. Harris poured in 15 points in the opening half on 5 of 6 shooting and did most of his damage from downtown – hitting 3 of 4 from behind the arc.
"It felt good to see some shots go in," Harris said after the game.
Harris continued his strong showing in the second half, adding another six points in the third quarter before he was sat early in the fourth with the game being decided. Harris’ efforts on the defensive end are well-known, but if he can build on his last two games, it gives the Nuggets another dimension on offense.
"I thought Gary Harris had a great game," Malone said. "People forget how instrumental Gary was to that series [against the Clippers in the playoffs], with the offense, the defense and efficiency he [showed]. Gary allows us to be a different team when the offense was flowing like it did tonight."
"Gary deserves it. He's been working so hard. For him to see the ball through the net tonight, I'm just happy for him because I know it has been on his mind. He's been putting a lot of time in [to improve]."
Defense dominates second half
It is important to recognize the Sixers only had seven players and fatigue likely played a factor, but the Nuggets deserve some credit for picking it up defensively after an inconsistent first half.
Maxey got the Sixers going in the first half, playing fearlessly and scoring 22 of the Sixers’ 51 points on 11 of 19 shooting in the opening 24 minutes.
In the second half, Denver increased its pressure on Philly’s standout rookie and neutralized its other threats. Danny Green, a player who has given the Nuggets issues in the past, shot 4 of 17 on the night.
The Nuggets entered Saturday’s contest as the second-ranked offense in the NBA, but three-point shooting remained a work-in-progress.
Prior to the game against the Sixers, the Nuggets were 13th in three-point percentage (36.7). With Philadelphia missing two strong defenders in Simmons and Thybulle, Denver took full advantage.
During the three quarters with Malone’s full rotation was in, the team hit 10 of 21 threes. Harris led the charge while Jamal Murray and JaMychal Green added another four. The team finished with 12 threes on the night.