Game Preview: Nuggets Look to Extend Winning Streak to Three
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – The second week of the current road trip begins with the Nuggets looking to maintain momentum. They enter Monday night’s game at Philadelphia riding a two-game winning streak after victories at Chicago and Washington, but having played well in three straight road games.
They’ll need to draw on all of that to beat the Sixers. Philadelphia is one of the most-improved teams in the NBA – and at 24-13 at the Wells Fargo Center, it is one of the best home teams in the league as well. At 42-30 overall, the fourth-place 76ers have already clinched a spot in the playoffs and are looking to improve their seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Philadelphia boasts some of the league’s top young talent in point guard Ben Simmons, center Joel Embiid and forward Dario Saric. In March, only four teams are shooting a better percentage from the 3-point line than Philadelphia’s 39.7 percent.
One of those teams, however, is the Nuggets.
“They’re a good team,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “And they’re deep.”
Malone elaborated on what concerns him coming into the game.
“Their bench is phenomenal,” Malone said. “They share the ball…they have shooters all over the floor. …. I talked to our players; on this road trip we’re doing some things really well, but our 3-point defense has been horrific. We’re giving up 44.8 percent in four games. We’re giving up 14 threes a night in these four games.
“Now, conversely, thank goodness we’re doing a great job protecting our paint, only giving up 41 points a night in our paint. We’re doing a much better job of valuing the basketball. We’re not beating ourselves on the road. So, that’s helping. But (Monday) night the biggest concern for me is their 3-point shooting because they have shooters everywhere. And then after that it will be: Can we defend Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in the post?”
The Nuggets, who are 1 ½ games behind Utah for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race, have had success in Philadelphia. They’ve won two straight and four of the last six in the City of Brotherly Love. Still, this will be the most formidable 76ers team they’ve faced here in years.
And the Nuggets continue to play without their leading scorer, Gary Harris, who is working his way back through a right knee injury. On Sunday, Malone said the earliest Harris could return is Friday at Oklahoma City.
“It’s very unfortunate, because Gary lives for these moments,” Malone said. “Leading scorer, one of our best defenders, so it’s a big player to be without. But, I thought Will Barton the last couple of games has been fantastic. Jamal (Murray’s) been unbelievable. Nikola. So, everybody’s got to step up. It’s going to take a team effort to beat Philly and to make the playoffs.”
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter