DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 30: Jamal Murray #27 of the Denver Nuggets goes to the basket against the Philadelphia 76ers on December 30, 2017 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Cold-Shooting Second Half Sinks Nuggets in Loss to Sixers

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

The book on Philadelphia this early season was that it struggled without its star, Joel Embiid. In fact, the 76ers had won just once without him in the lineup all season long. Additionally, the Nuggets entered the night as one of the best home teams in the league.

But the NBA makes you earn it every night out. And Philadelphia was up to the task on Saturday night, stealing a 107-102 victory over the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Or, as the Nuggets put it afterwards, their shooting wasn’t up to the task for the full 48 minutes.

It was a tale of two halves.

In the first half, the Nuggets shot 52 percent from the field (24-of-46) and were led by stellar play out of Jamal Murray (18 points), Gary Harris (12), Will Barton (12) and Trey Lyles (10). They had 61 points as a team.

Second half shooting, however, was as frigid as the first half was hot.

The Nuggets made just 11-of-41 shots in the final 24 minutes. After starting off the third quarter on an 11-0 run, Philadelphia outscored the Nuggets 49-30 to end the game. Contained within that was a 33-7 run spanning the third and fourth quarters.

“I loved the effort and the defense we started that third quarter with,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “I think they were one for their first 10 shots. And then after that, obviously, they started getting whatever they wanted.”

Meanwhile, the Nuggets couldn’t hit. Part of it was due to Philadelphia doing a much better job of walling off the paint. In the first half, the Nuggets had 38 points in the paint, scoring on 19-of-25 shots. In the second half, they were forced into tougher shots and more jump shots. In the first half, only 45 percent of their shots were jumpers. About 49 percent of their shots in the second half were jump shots. And with the Nuggets missing a good chunk of them, the Sixers were able to capitalize.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokić said that in the third quarter, the Sixers “were playing aggressive, they were playing together more than us.”

Malone cited fatigue that grew throughout the game.

“I do think we had some looks that for us weren’t even close tonight, which is not who we’ve been,” Malone said. “We’ve been a team that has shot the ball pretty well from the perimeter, and tonight you could tell some of our misses weren’t even on the mark, if you will. I’m sure fatigue has played a factor and we’ll be smart as to how we prepare for our next game against Phoenix.”

Jamal Murray led the Nuggets with 31 points and eight rebounds. Jokic had 19 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. Gary Harris had 17 points and five steals. Will Barton finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists and Trey Lyles added 16 points and eight rebounds.

The Nuggets finished December with a 6-7 record, but have a 19-17 record overall.

“I’d say overall (the year) was more positive than negative,” Malone said. “By no means are we satisfied with being 19-17, but when you take everything into account – the injury to Paul Millsap, the six or seven games that Nikola Jokic missed, the fact that we’ve had the schedule we’ve had…I think overall we’re headed in the right direction.”

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter